You’re parroting a parrot, Dumbass: An object lesson in Leading and Following

There is this lady that lives across the street. We call her “the dog lady”, but she also has a parrot. The loud screechy kind that talks. Like, it says people words.

It calls her name “FARAH!…FARAH! FARAH! FARAH!” If it isn’t calling her name, it’s calling her dog’s name. If it isn’t calling her dog’s name, it’s honking like the horn on a bicycle. If it’s not honking like the horn on a bicycle, it is, I’m pretty sure, screaming in the throes of ecstasy. (Other’s have heard this as well, and that’s, like, the only thing it could be.) When it’s not faking an orgasm, it’s barking like a dog. And if it’s not barking like a dog, it’s announcing it’s presence to the world by shouting “PARROT! PARROT! PARROT!”. All. day. long.

It’s funny. And kind of annoying. But what are you gonna do, right?

So, we, the parrot and I, live in a little neighborhood that’s carved into the coffee fields at the base of the volcano, Barva. This little enclave is surrounded on three sides by coffee, so when it’s time to harvest (which happens to be right now) the workers walk through our neighborhood with their baskets to pick the coffee in these fields. They start around 5 when the sun comes up, and end whenever they end.

They walk back and forth past our houses to get from one field to another. If it’s not the coffee-pickers, it’s the construction workers who are building toward the end of the block, and if it’s not the construction workers, it’s the security guards. If not the security guards, then a group of soccer players, or two ladies pushing babies in strollers. There is always someone right outside, someone walking down the street between the parrot’s house and mine.

The only reason I know this is because the parrot talks to every single person that passes. And you know what? They talk back. It’s crazy. Grown men go nuts for this bird. It’s like this (except in spanish and in whacky parrot voices):

Parrot: FARAH!

Person: Oh, a parrot!


Person: Hello!

Parrot: Hello! Hello! Parrot! PARROT! PARROT! HELLO PARROT!


(then they both say “parrot” back and forth like 20 times)

Parrot: Honk. Honk.

Person: Honk.





(then the parrot offers it’s entire vocabulary plus a couple of yappy dog barks and the person repeats every bit of it back until the parrot fakes an orgasm and the person says to his friend “That’s what she said” and then they walk away.)

This is how it goes every time. I hear this interaction 10 times a day. Different people, same parrot. And every time, I want to shout out my window, “You’re parroting a parrot, Dumbass!” But, A), I don’t think that it would be very well received, B) that kind of behavior sort of flies in the face of the relational ministry we’ve got going on down here, and C) I do that very same thing all the time.

Ok, maybe I don’t stand there repeating that stupid, loud, obnoxious bird’s every word. But, I definitely take in certain things from certain people and immediately start repeating them. Which, in itself, is neither good nor bad. But the whole thing with the parrot choosing the words, or the sounds, or whatever, and the people standing there, repeating it – It got me to thinking about who I parrot and why…. and who parrots me and why. Tell me that’s not a scary thought!

By the way, while I was writing this, we had a small earthquake, which happens all the time here but this time I kept thinking “Haiti. Haiti. Haiti. Haiti. Haiti.” And now I just feel kind of… sad…. for Haiti….



  1. deemus on January 22, 2010 at 11:37 am

    OMG, I spewed coke on my keyboard. The parrot faking an orgasm? Oh my! LOL

    Earthquakes, noisy parrots, lots of people, sounds like you are really making sacrifices down there, and that's not to mention really good coffee that you get.

    To be serious, good word Jamie. I catch myself being a parrot sometimes, done it my whole life. Sometimes its just easier to say what someone else says than to come up with your own message. Lazy Americans…

  2. Church Lady on January 22, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Ahhhh, here's what I'm thinking. . . . . why is that woman's name Farrah? Was she named after Farrah Fawcett or is it a "stage name"…….what exactly does Farrah do for a living? Parrot's mimic, they aren't smart enough to make stuff up . . .. .I'm just saying. . . . .

  3. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on January 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks deemus!

    Haha, Church Lady! Farah is a biologist. Not exactly what you had in mind. And, yes, the parrot learned most of his tricks from her!!! It's positively scandalous!!!

  4. Alex Green on January 22, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Uh, that had a pleasant upswing where now I'm feeling a little conviction, not just giggles.

    But I really want to know how to say "That's what she said." in Spanish.

  5. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on January 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    "Eso es lo que dijo ella." = "That's what she said." It's sounds funnier in English.

  6. nick reid on January 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    U know I used to tell people if they were haters that they were the presiident of haiti… which if it ever was is no longer funny to people. Lol, I remember I told somebody once to stop hatin and get there money up, and my buddy coghill told him to go back to haiti, there lookin for there president… so I parroted him I guess, hmmm something to ponder? Why we all are the way we are???? Genetics? Society? Parents, or maybe just parroting.. until its no longer a regurgitation but a habit that has become ur own? My daughter says momma and dadda all day, but about 30 percent does she actually say it and it have a chance at it regarding her need for our attention. Although she knows her name now, which again is all repetition, which as the saying goes is the father of learning… so, what your saying is were all Parrots one way or another… a thouught worth pondering. 😉

  7. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on January 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    BUT. Unlike parrots, we get to choose what we put in, and what we spit out.
    Thanks for your comment, Nick.

  8. Kelly on January 22, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    "Throes of ecstasy"?? Wow…now you could move of to writing spicy romancy novels! How DID those words come to mind…and how did you know how to spell them? Fun stuff, Jamie…pondering the world from your point of view is SO interesting!

  9. Dad on January 22, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    When I read your title about parrot-ing, I immediately thought about a Catholic mass I once attended. Talk about parrots! A robed guy up front mutters something, and the whole crowd copies the same words…over and over and over. At least I got plenty of exercise…up, down, up, down. I'll bet more Catholics get knee replacemens than the general public.

    Anyway…if parrots were created by God, why did he let man invent the answering machine? He already invented it…and it even speaks Spanish. Course, you don't have to put the Sunday paper under your answering machine. Oh well, musings of a tired Dad.


  10. Matthew Snyder on January 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Stumbled across your blog via Anne Jackson's blog, maybe? Can't remember. Anyway, as a missionary myself (although Stateside… and I travel a lot), I find this friggin' hilarious! I can so relate. Anyway, hope all is well in Costa Rica. I think this might become a new blog in my RSS feed, haha…

  11. Zac on January 22, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    First, you need to record the parrot and put him on youtube during his fake organism and you could have a viral video like this one

    Second, as always, you take a funny story and create a hard hitting lesson out of it!

  12. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on January 23, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Hey Matthew. Welcome! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment – it's always so nice when someone else can relate!! Glad you're out there doin' your thing!!

    Zac – that video is hilarous! I saw a loooong time ago, but it still makes me laugh!!

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