A Tale Of Two


Stacy’s husband Dave was overseas with some branch of the military. He was gone for 8 or was it 10 months, leaving not too long after they came home from their Hawaii honeymoon. Stacy, an avid planner, had already booked flights and a hotel in Italy for their first wedding anniversary and luckily, it happened to coincide with Dave’s leave during deployment. After 10 glorious days together in Rome, Venice, and Milan, Stacy flew home alone to resume work and waiting for Dave. Stacy wasn’t home long when she realized she brought home more than her new fancy heels from Italy. After a year of marriage Stacy and Dave were going to become a family of three.


Audrey bitterly stared at the pregnancy test in her hand. In a fit of hopeful angst, she had pulled the test from the trash can, willing the second line to appear. Stubbornly, just one line filled half of the results window, the other half remaining an empty, stark white. Fat tears dripped off of Audrey’s nose, plopping onto the test stick, then slowly dripping to the bathroom floor. She followed the tears, crumbling in a hopeless heap on the floor. This negative test came after their fifth, and likely last, round of invitro-fertilization. Her husband Mike had already told her he refused to waste another penny on expensive medical treatments that jeopardized her health and depleted their marriage. Audrey sobbed uncontrollably, mourning a child who never was.



Z = Zapped! #atozchallenge


I was bit the beginning of September, which also coincides with the beginning of the rainy season in Nicaragua. September and October are the rainiest months of the year in Nicaragua. The river in my community that had run dry during the dry season, from November to May, was now spilling its banks. On a rainier day it could be more than chest deep in some spots. On less rainy days the people in the community could hop across the river on big stragetically-placed boulders, since there was no bridge. I crossed the river many times in a day. When I taught English classes at the small elementary school twice a week, I crossed the river twice to get to the school. I ate lunch and dinner with two different families who happened to live on the opposite side of the river from me. I would cross the river to join them for meals and also to work with other families on various projects, such as chicken vaccinations, small family gardens, and simple cooking classes. Plus, I spent a lot of time just visiting and getting to know people in the small farming community. Many of the times, I would cross the river on the rocks, but sometimes they were under water or I would cross at a place with no rocks to step on. So, I had no choice but to go through the river. I took care of my leg, I washed it twice a day and applied the ointment. I kept a bandage on it to keep the dirt out and so that I wouldn’t get too much sun on it. The leg was slow to heal. The large hole didn’t get a scab, it just oozed for weeks. The smaller puncture wounds hurt more because they were in the calf muscle, but they seemed to be healing better.

In October I needed to go to the Peace Corps office for my annual check up, to make sure I was still healthy enough to stay in-country for my second year of service. I made the appointment for the second Friday in October (my birthday is the first and I was planning a party, so I decided to put it off until the second week). A few days before the doctor appointment I began to feel like I was coming down with a cold. When I bent over to tie my shoe, my arm brushed my right leg and it felt warm to the touch. I thought perhaps it was warm from the sun. The color of the drainage from my leg changed from reddish-brown to yellow. I figured the appointment was only a few days away and I would certainly have the doctors take a look at my leg when I got to Managua.

The morning of the appointment, I woke up early, around 4 am. I trudged 40 minutes through knee-deep puddles and mud to get to San José to catch the 5 am Expresso to Managua. It was standing room only. I stood and tried to keep my leg out of the fray as more passengers boarded and disembarked the bus. My leg throbbed as I swayed on my feet, clinging to the guide rail above me. After about an hour and a half, I was able to nab a seat. I fell asleep and slept the rest of the way to Managua. I made it to the Peace Corps office, but I was not feeling well. I hoped they would be able to give me something for a cold.

The doctors had not arrived yet to the office, so I dozed while I waited for them. Ximena came in first and ushered me into an exam room. She checked my chart and talked about my health in general. She looked in my eyes, my ears, and down my throat. She asked me if I was taking the chloroquine to prevent malaria. I asked her if she wanted to know the truth or if I should just tell her I am in compliance. I told her the medicine made me have crazy psychedelic dreams which made it hard for me to sleep. Plus, it was making my hair fall out. So, I stopped taking it. I told her malaria was less of an issue in my community, that dengue fever was a far bigger threat. She gave me some different malaria meds and suggested I try those. Then she asked me about me leg. I explained to her that it wasn’t healing very well. She asked to see it. So, I hopped up on the exam table and rolled up my pant leg. Her back was to me, writing in my chart, as I eased the still-damp bandage off of my leg. Doctora Ximena turned around, looked at my leg and shouted, “Oh my god!” Then she ran from the room.

     I sat bewildered, wondering what just happened. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. Ximena came back in with Doctor Eduardo, chattering in Spanish that they needed to do something about my leg that maybe they would need to “cut it out” and perhaps it would be best if I was sent to Panama for more thorough medical attention (if a volunteer has a serious enough medical issue or emergency, they are sent to USA equivalent hospitals. The closest to us in Nicaragua was in Panama City, Panama). Doctor Eduardo calmed the doctora down and then turned to me to explain. He said I had a very bad infection in my leg and they were worried about it. I would need to stay close to the Peace Corps office (they did not have places for us to stay in the office, but put us up in a local hotel – which compared to living in the poor rural villages, it was like staying in the Ritz!). He wanted to send me for testing to see what type of infection it was and also to make sure I was not diabetic, since the leg was so slow to heal. Doctora Ximena explained that I would not be going back to my home community and that I would need to be seen by the doctors every day until the wound healed.

     “But!” I exclaimed, “I don’t have a change of clothes with me and no one in my community knows I will not be coming back and-and-and I don’t even have a tooth-brush!” Doctora Ximena said I could simply buy the things I needed here in Managua, but I pleaded my case and begged to be allowed to go home this afternoon and return the following day, first thing in the morning. Had the doctors known this would require trudging through dirty mud puddles and crossing the river, they might not have consented.

I quickly left the Peace Corps office and took a cab to the lab across town. When the lab technician jabbed a long cotton swab into my leg, an intense pain shot up my leg, not unlike when the lime juice was squeezed on the wound. My stomach rolled as I gritted my teeth and tears of pain rolled down my face. A wave of cold sweat washed over me. My vision became cloudy and the tech yelled for someone to bring me some juice. Once again I was on the brink of passing out. After what seemed like an eternity, the lab tech ceased his torture, and I hobbled out to hail a cab, my leg throbbing in protest. The cab dropped me off at the bus terminal and I decided to take an Inter-local van to Leon, hoping to catch the 3:00 pm bus from Leon to El Sauce. The 3 pm bus deposited me at San Jose around 5 pm and I slowly stumbled home, as the setting sun cast long shadows ahead of me.

I arrived home to find my boy-friend’s sister, Masiel, sitting in my hammock. She had been taking care of my dog while I was gone for the day and decided to come meet me at my place. She also told me her mother had invited me over for dinner. Gratefully, I followed her across the river to her place and accepted the dinner of white rice, red beans, and a fresh, warm corn tortilla. I then explained to Juana, one of my closest friends in the community, what the doctors had told me and that I would need to return first thing in the morning. She was worried about me and asked me how long I would be gone. I explained that I did not know, the doctors weren’t really sure what they were going to do with me yet.

I left her place and went to another friend’s house close by, to tell her the news and to ask if she would puppy-sit. When I told her the doctor’s said I had an infection, she burst into tears.

“Oh, I don’t want you to die!” she wailed and flung herself upon me, sobbing into my shoulder. I patted her on the back and promised not to die, feeling she was being a little over-dramatic. She sniffled and explained that some family member she had got an infection in their leg. The doctor’s amputated the leg, but the person still died not too long afterward. I was not fearful, knowing I had good doctors looking after me; doctors who were trained in the US and would send me back to the States if things got that bad. I told her I would be fine and not to worry, I would be back good as new.

My boyfriend came over to my house that night and I told him what happened at my doctors visit earlier. He told me my leg was not healing because we were intimate with one another. I said this was nonsense, but he insisted, telling me a tale of a woman in the community who hurt her foot. She was sleeping with two men and because she was having sex, her foot just would not heal. In fact, her injury got worse. I knew the woman he was talking about and had witnessed the pain she was in each and every step she took. My husband explained to me that her small injury to her foot was exacerbated by her being intimate with men and caused the foot to twist and turn so that the bottom of her foot faced up and she in essence was walking on her ankle. I chided him for his folkloric belief and we made love to tide us over, while I underwent treatment in Managua.

I returned to Managua on the Expresso the next morning and checked into Hotel Europeao, two blocks from the Peace Corps office. The office was closed because it was Saturday so I would not be seeing the doctors until Monday. I indulged myself in a nice hot shower, washing the dust and grit off of my body. I scrubbed my leg, as instructed by the doctors and then turned on the TV. Few families in my community had TVs. Those who did, could only choose from 2-3 channels which all showed the same things, gruesome news stories and over-dramatic telenovelas. I avoided Nicaraguan TV like the plague. But, the hotel had cable. I settled in and found some Friends re-runs. Later that afternoon, my roommate returned. She was a volunteer who had been on the Caribbean coast in the town of Bluefields. The Peace Corps closed all posts in the RAAN and RAAS (North Atlantic Autonomous Region and South Atlantic Autonomous Region) due to increased danger from the growing drug traffic moving up the Caribbean coast. The Peace Corps also restricted any travel by volunteers to these areas, which was a shame because the Caribbean coast was the most beautiful area of the country. My roommate was now stationed on the Island of Ometepe with her boyfriend, another volunteer nicknamed El Gigante because he was to tall and burley. We decided to go to dinner together, since there were very few volunteers around.

After dinner I called home. My mother was not expecting my call, since I next to never called home on a Saturday evening. Therefore, her first question was, “What’s wrong?” I explained to her about my leg and that I was in Managua indefinitely.

“I told you so,” was her response. I said I did not know what type of infection it was, but I was back on some heavy-duty antibiotics to help fight it. I told her about over-hearing the doctors talking about “cutting” it out and she said that they would do that if the infection seemed to be progressing too rapidly for the antibiotics to really help. She said this might not be a bad option, since it would mean the infected area would be removed and the leg should heal more rapidly. I did not want to go to Panama City, as much as I would like to see other places in the world, I did not want to be shipped out to some random city and have my leg hacked apart.

Thankfully, that did not happen. Monday morning I went to the Peace Corps office bright and early. I saw a different doctor and she told me that I had a Staphylococcus infection – in laymen’s terms, a staph infection. I would need to come to the office twice a day to get my leg scrubbed with a vile-smelling iodine soap and I would also need to scrub it when I showered every night. I had to keep it bandaged and coated with a thick white antibiotic ointment. I was staying in Managua for at least a week.

At first, it was nice being in town. No chickens were crowing at obscene hours of the night or day, I could use the computer whenever I felt like, watch all the US re-runs I could stand, and eat food that wasn’t beans, rice, or tortillas. But, I was lonely. I missed my own little home with it’s dirt floors and outside “shower.” I loved taking my bucket bath under the stars. The cool water running down my back as I gazed up in awe of the amount of stars I could see and how brilliant they appeared. On clear nights it felt like I could reach up and pluck one from the sky. I missed my dog, Canela, and my two cats, Sullie and Guapo. I also really missed my friends Juana and Martina and of course, my boyfriend Nelson. After the first week, I was ready to go back to my Nica home. But, on Friday the doctors announced I would be staying until at least Monday. Then they would re-evaluate how my leg was progressing at that time and determine how much longer I would be staying with them.

After this proclamation, I returned to my room dejectedly and decided to take a nice hot shower. It was the one of the only things I had not gotten tired of in the past week, the other being getting my clothes washed in washing machines rather than the river – fabric softener never smelled and felt so good!. In Nicaragua, in all but the two largest and fanciest hotels, the water is heated by a hot water heater located somewhere in the bowels of the hotel. Rather, most of the hotels had an electric heater attached right to the shower head and the water passed through the heater before raining down on sudsy heads. A few days previous I noticed I would get a slight shock when I touched the metal shower knob. I didn’t think much of it and chalked it up to operator ineptitude. Before I disrobed I reached into the shower to turn it on and let the water get hot. When I stepped inside, I grabbed the knob to change the temperature and received a rather nasty shock. And then I heard a loud POP! I looked up and noticed sparks fly out of the heater and a small fire erupt from the wires behind it. There was an electric fire above me and I was standing in water. Not a great combination. I yelped and jumped from the shower as the flames grew. My roommates boyfriend yelled to me, “Are you ok?”

“Uh, no there’s a fire!” I yelled back, grabbing the tiny towel and trying my best to tuck all the goods inside. I finally pulled my t-shirt on and used the towel as a skirt.

“I’m coming in, ok?” he called back.

I huddled, dripping wet in the corner of the tiny bathroom as El Gigante stormed in and quickly smothered the flames with a towel. He used the same towel to turn the water off.

“Are you hurt?” he asked, averting his eyes from my half-naked form.

Self-consciously I shrugged and replied, “I think I’m fine. Just a little shaken up. And, I don’t know how I’m going to finish my shower now.”

I ended up calling the hotel and taking a shower in another room. After that fiasco, I was too exhausted to go out to eat, so I read a book until I fell asleep. I slept a lot more, as my body fought the staph infection in my leg.

I was going stir-crazy being stuck in this hotel room. Some volunteer friends would pass through, but none stayed for more than a day or two. Plus, eating out in Managua was getting expensive. My modest stipend was plenty when I was living in my tiny rural pueblo, but here in the big city, I was spending money hand over fist. It was nice being more in-touch with my parents and with friends via the internet, but I missed the personal connection. And, due to constantly bouncing from air conditioning to the hot Nicaraguan sun combined with an immune system busy fighting the good fight with my infected leg, I got a nasty head cold. In short, I was pretty darn miserable.

Fortunately, a fellow Aggie was coming to town because her boyfriend was visiting. Kristen and I met up in the Peace Corps lounge/library/post office/computer lab the Wednesday following my second week of imprisonment in the Hotel Europeao. The doctors decided Monday that I was not ready to head back, but would take another look on Wednesday. I told her what happened and winced at how sore my leg was after the morning’s scrub. She said she was sorry I was hurt and also that I was going stir crazy. We talked about how weird it was that when we are in our little farming communities cut off from the world all we want to be able to do is use the internet and sit in air conditioning, yet how quickly we become bored with these things when we have them.

S = Site Visit #atozchallenge


After the grueling ride from Estelí to El Sauce, Sandra and I sat and waited for Juan José to finish his business in El Sauce. Sandra smiled timidly at me and I felt compelled to strike up a conversation since I would be staying with her family when I moved to Sabana Grande. I tried to ask her about her hometown, but she only said it was not far and that Juan José would take us there in the truck. I sat on a cement bench under a small shade tree to wait for Juan José to finish his business in the office. El Sauce was the closest town to Sabana Grande so it would be the place for me to use a computer, make phone calls and buy groceries.

From where I was sitting, the town seemed quiet and subdued. A few trucks lumbered past but most of the traffic consisted of bikes with a bench seat rigged on the front to transport passengers and goods. A few emaciated horses trudged past pulling small wooden wagons. Even in the shade the sweat trickled down my back and pooled at my waist band. I used the handkerchief I had covering my face on the ride to mop the sweat off my brow before it ran into my eyes. I thought about how much I hate the heat and now I was condemned to an eternal summer.

Finally, Juan José came outside and said it was time to go. He buzzed back through town down the same main street we traversed just a few minutes prior, and out under the welcoming arch. Being in the cab was slightly more comfortable, except I had to strain to keep my knee from hitting the gear shift as we bounced and weaved down the road. We drove for about fifteen minutes before we reached a small town which Juan José said was San José. We turned left onto a narrow dirt road and Sandra closed the window as the truck kicked up a large cloud of dust.

The bouncing on this road was nearly unbearable as Juan José, gunned the engine to climb out of a rocky ditch carved into the road. A short distance from San José the road split and we stayed to the right. He mentioned this is where Sabana Grande began. I tried to take in the landscape and countryside as we careened down the road, but I was more concerned with not flopping onto either the gear shift or Sandra’s lap. I tried to brace myself with my hand pressed tightly onto the dash board and my foot digging into the floor. My muscles began to quiver and ache as we bounced along. There were a lot more trees around this area than I noticed when we first descended the mountains into the plains with many big shade trees stately looming over small brick and adobe homes.

We came to another section where the road split. Juan José pointed to the right at a tin roof covering a cement slab lined with benches and said, “La parada del bús.” He carefully eased the truck over the rock-strewn road and pulled up to a large house with a cattle pasture to the right. “Hemos llegado,” he announced. Sandra slid from the truck and I followed behind her. I pulled my backpack from the back of the truck and looked around me. The house was made of red bricks and had a clay tile roof. The house had four doors facing the dirt courtyard. The door to my far right was propped open and the roof slanted down, making the ceiling shorter. Smoke billowed from this section of the house indicating it was the kitchen. Between this door and the next one was a large open window. To the far left, the brick wall was replaced with thick metal fencing offering security if not privacy. Chickens were scratching in the thick dirt in front of the empty cattle pen next to the house. Sandra motioned for me to follow her inside.

As my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting inside, I noticed a few rocking chairs propped against the wall beside me. An elderly man was lying in a brightly colored hammock watching TV and smoking a cigarette. Across from me a large heavy mirror framed by thick dark wood with religious carvings hung from the wall and a small wooden table sat beneath it. On either side of the mirror there were narrow closed doors. To my right a large wooden table was pushed against the wall, beneath the open window. A doorway next to the table led to the kitchen area, where I could see a fire burning under a large black caldron. To my left, past the elderly man in the hammock, was another doorway to the room with the metal fence surrounding it. The floor there was cemented with small blue and white tiles, a stark contrast to the packed dirt floor in the living room and kitchen.

“Sientase,” Sandra said, pushing a rocking chair in my direction. Juan José walked over to the man in the hammock to shake his hand and they struck up a loud conversation. Two large, skinny dogs came trotting into the house ahead of a tall wiry man with a large straw hat. He glanced at me and then greeted Juan José and the elderly man before disappearing into one of the rooms behind the mirror. Unsure of what was happening or what I was supposed to do, I sat in the rocking chair and tried to eavesdrop on the men’s conversation. A few minutes ticked by feeling like an eternity and I dug out my hankie to swipe the sweat from my face and neck.

Sandra called to me from the room with the tile floor. I ducked under the hammock and followed her into a small bed room. Sandra indicated I would be sleeping in this room and she showed me where I could store my backpack. The room was small with a large bed as well as a dresser and a red plastic lawn chair. Next to the bed was a small table with a lamp next to it. Sitting next to the lamp was a roll of toilet paper. I looked around the room, thinking, “So, this will be my new home.”

R = River #atozchallenge


A small river ran through my farming town. I don’t know if it had a name, we just called it el rio or quebrada. My house sat on the river bank, it was the first house you’d come to when crossing at the main road. The river bank was too steep and too covered in brush and weeds for anyone to trespass, so I only had a fence around the front and sides of my property. Several feet from the main crossing point a second, smaller creek converged with the larger river. During the rainy season, the water churned muddy rapids that became nearly impassable. Most of the time we could cross the river by hopping over large, strategically placed rocks or wading through the sandy flat, with the water barely reaching my knees. But, when it was raining, the river swelled to waist deep and the current became swift and dangerous. I remember watching an elderly man being washed off his short mule and pulled to safety by some of the young men. Granted, he might not have lost his seat had he been sober and awake, but still it was scary to watch him be pushed downstream, bouncing off of rocks. In contrast, the river would dry up into mere puddles when the rain stopped and the hot, dry season stretched for month after month.


The river wasn’t deep enough to be a source of travel and commerce, it most served as a hindrance to mobility. But, it was also a source of entertainment. On one occasion I trekked up river with Juana, Masiel, Giselle, and a whole group of other kids and we splashed and played in the waterfalls that tumbled off the large boulders and rocky cliffs. We took glamour shots of ourselves in the waterfalls, emulating models and mermaids in water escapades. Another time we went down river, a shorter and less arduous walk, to splash and swim in a wide, gentle spot of the river where there were less rocks and the water was deeper. The boys played the girls in a game of chicken and our day ended with us washing our hair in the river. I still have the pictures from both outings and enjoy reminiscing over the good times when I view them.


Q = Quinceanera #atozchallenge


I was still in training when I attended my first quinceañera. I don’t remember how we got the invite, but it came through Rachel’s host family. We rode up in the truck with Victor, Raquel, and Maria. We were one of the first to arrive, so we had time to walk around the farm a bit and investigate the wooded area around the house. The men came to ask Kemp to help move some tables, so Rachel and I wandered around with a little girl while more truck loads of people arrived and entered the small house. Soon we were called into the house and handed plates of food. As I would discover, it was typical party fare for Nicaragua; rice, a piece of meat, a salad consisting of a leaf of lettuce and a slice of tomato, a slice of white bread and a small piece of salty cheese.

Once we were done eating, the music was turned up to maximum volume and dancing began. Being the only gringas, Rachel and I were never without a dance partner. To request a dance partner, the men would walk up to a woman and stick their hand out and motioning to the dance floor with their heads. If the woman wants to dance, she will take his hand. If not, she will be hounded until the man is convinced she means it or another man comes to her rescue. Rachel and I danced until sweat dripped down our backs. We would try to take a break, find a seat, but before long a throng of hands would be begging us to dance.

Quince parties were a big deal in Nicaragua. Families would save for years to afford the cost of feeding nearly the entire village in addition to the fancy dress, the DJ, and any house improvements required to make their home presentable. The dress is traditionally pink, but that began loosening up with yellow, white, and purple becoming popular. I learned it was considered a privilege to have the gringa attend the party, so I tried to attend every party where I was invited.


P = Poop #atozchallenge


My sister came to visit me for a week when I was living in Nicaragua. We started our visit in my training town, Los Laureles, visiting Doña Ramona and going to the nature reserve Miraflor. Our next stop was my site, Sabana Grande. I wanted my sister to meet my friends and learn about my community. We climbed La Loma for her to call home and we walked the circuitous path around my community for her to get to know the village. We set out, with Canela zig-zagging in the lead. First, we had to cross the river just a few feet from my house. It was the rainy season, so the river was running higher than it had been a few weeks ago. The easiest way across was to slip off our shoes and go through the river. But, my sister was wearing sneakers and socks, so I waded into the water and helped her balance on the rocks to hop across without getting wet. We did this twice, as the path required we cross the river at two different locations. We walked past the school, which I pointed out. We stopped in the little pulperia to buy some galletas. We stopped to talk to some people I had gotten to know and meandered on to a spot where the large trees provided welcome shade. My sister mentioned her stomach hurt and she needed to find a latrine. We were in a section with only fields around us. I suggested we hurry along, since it was nearly equal distance to turn around or to forge ahead. Groaning, my sister walked gingerly beside me for a few more feet before crying, “I can’t! I have to go!” The only solution was to wade into the weeds alongside the path. She was mortified! “What if someone comes along the path?” I promised to keep a look-out and handed her my pack of tissues. I heard her grumbling and protesting at the indignity of having to poop on the side of the road. I understood her dilemma, I had had various bouts of stomach ailments from bacteria, to food poisoning; gastrointestinal issues abound in Nicaragua! After several uncomfortable moments, my sister emerged from the weeds and handed me the packet of tissues. I squeezed some hand sanitizer into her palms and tried not to smirk as we resumed our journey.

O = Odd #atozchallenge


When visiting any new place the things that strike you first are the differences. The obvious differences between Nicaragua and my family farm in Pennsylvania were climate and language. But, there were other differences, things I found odd, in the creencias of the people in my small farming town. The one thing I could simply never understand, were the rules they had regarding hot and cold states of being. For example, if you were working outside in the sun all day on my family farm in PA you would come in and take a cool, refreshing shower and drink some ice tea or cold water. This was not possible in my small village in Nicaragua! If you were hot from the exertion of working outside it would hace haño (do harm) to take a cold shower or drink something cold – it simply would not be done. At best, you could drink a piping hot cup of coffee, but showering could not happen until your body cooled down. I liked bathing at night because the air was usually a tad cooler and the water was warmed from sitting in the covered bucket all day. Plus, I liked going to bed clean. But, it was viewed as eccentric to bath at night and I was constantly questioned if it harmed me to bathe at night. I remember one instance when I had been cooking over leña at Juana’s house and I wanted to wash my hands. She begged me, with tears in her eyes, to not leave the hot kitchen and wash my hands with cold water because she feared for my health. I needed my hands to be clean, so I disobeyed her and she barely forgave me because she believed something bad would befall me from washing my hot hands with cold water.


Other things I found odd, yet I picked up as customs, were pointing with your lips, scrunching up your nose to mean you didn’t understand, snapping your fingers by flicking your wrist (although I never really got the hang of it) to mean “Wow!” and using a tortilla as a utensil. Although I never liked it, I grew accustomed to getting the hissing tss-tss cat calls when venturing outside of my community. I also got used to being called “chela” (white), “gringa” (not meant offensively, as it is in Mexico), “muñeca” (doll), and “amor” (love). And I stopped flinching when someone asked me to regala mis ojos (gift them my eyes).