Petrona, one of our abuelas, lives with her daughter and son-in-law. Her son-in-law is abusive to her, but her daughter is unable to do anything about the situation. One of Petrona's legs is very swollen, and she doesn't know why. My voluntaria friend Margaret from Ireland, who is a nurse, is on this visit with us. She thinks Petrona has some sort of infection, possibly cellulitis, and should see a doctor immediately. However, it is very painful for her to walk so she will need to figure out a way to get to the doctor.
While Hermana Jacci discusses the situation with Petrona and her daughter, I catch a glimpse of a little girl peeking out from behind a door. It is Petrona's granddaughter. I go over and try to talk to her in my broken Spanish. She is wary of me, and won't talk to me or even smile, but she agrees to have her picture taken. She begins warming up to the camera, and proudly shows me her prized possession, a Barbie backpack, which she insists be in the photo with her. She finally manages a slight smile after I have taken several shots.
This niña bonita was a bright spot in my day. Perhaps I (but more likely my camera) was a bright spot in her day too.
My camera serves an amazing function here in Peru, allowing me to communicate with people with whom I otherwise I would not be able, due to language or cultural barriers. It has become my most valued possession, and I keep it with me at all times. Thank you, Dad, for the best birthday present you've ever given me.