The Shrieking Parakeets of Leticia, Colombia

Standing on the edge of the square at dusk. Thunder rumbles in the distance. The sky is overcast, light gray with patches of darker cloud shot through it. I’m an indigenous woman. My skin is a deep nut brown. I look at the lovely burnished color of my arm. The air is humid and tropical. Moisture beads my forehead and upper lip. My hair is long, dark and thick. It lays heavy on my neck, sticking to my skin uncomfortably. I lift it up for a moment, enjoying the brief coolness as air flows beneath it. I’m wearing a white cotton dress with delicate blue flowers and vines embroidered on it and sandals on my feet. I’m holding a basket in my right hand full of fresh fruits and vegetables. I set it down on the ground and  gaze out at the square with the pillars in a semi-circle around the backside. A group of small birds fly in, dark blobs against the cloudy sky. They shriek loudly as they swoop in and settle on top of the pillars. I smell rain in the air, earthy with a hint of metal in it. People walk across the square going about their nightly business. Three men sit at the side of the square wearing white shirts. One stands with his back to me, talking to his friends. A woman passes with her child, skipping and running to keep up with her rapid pace. A man passes her going the other way walking a big Golden Retriever on a leash. The dog looks friendly as he trots leisurely by, his tongue lolling out and his floppy ears swaying. Thunder peals again, closer this time. A fat drop of rain splashes on my cheek and I look up at the darkening sky. Electric lights begin to twinkle on behind the pillars as the village sinks into evening. More people pass by in both directions, going home for dinner, and TV and the winding down conversations around tables and bars. More birds fly in from the east, a whole mess of them moving in a black mass that breaks apart like a scattered puzzle as they choose their roosts. The shrieking is now a cacophony of sound piercing the air and mingling with the chatter and feet against concrete. I watch all of it motionlessly. A group of high school age girls in navy blue uniforms walk by, laughing and gossiping, their voices joyful and excited. They hold their books and tug on the straps of backpacks as they pass me. I pull out a plastic square with strings attached, shake it out and tie it onto my head. Behind me, more lights pop on, bright pools of gold warming the advancing gloom. I pick up my basket and walk straight through the square, fading into the night…

Parakeet Clay Lick | Tambopata, Peru - Rainforest Expeditions

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