When I was about four years old we lived in Colombia for a while at my grandmother's house in Manizales. She had a maid named Tulia. Tulia was one of those old ladies who wore her long grey hair in braids. You know the kind. She wore printed, cotton dresses and was no taller than a ten year old child. I loved Tulia so much that I insisted on sleeping with her every night in her bed. Something about that concerned my mother for some reason and eventually she put a stop to it.

Tulia believed herself to be clairvoyant. She once started telling the family for days that the world was coming to an end. Shortly thereafter, we were hit with one of the biggest earthquakes in Colombian history. Every house on the block collapsed but ours. I remember seeing the street cracked down the middle. But what I remember mostly is Tulia. On her knees in the backyard praying frantically to be pardoned by Jesus and be taken to heaven. Or to live. I'm not sure what she was praying for, but there was begging involved.

Tulia had a nephew who was ten or eleven and mentally retarded. He was also quite large. He came to visit her every now and then. Once he started to tickle me and wouldn't stop. When they found us on the kitchen floor I was bright red and gasping for air. They had to pull him off of me. So, basically I almost got tickled to death. You may understand now why I have a fear of being tickled.

I went to nursery school at a place called "El Mundo de Los Ninos". We wore orange and white checkered smocks. The kids teased me and called me "gringa" because according to my dad I had a funny accent. I think I just talked like any bilingual four year-old.

I also had a friend named Lena who lived across the street. She had blond hair and blue eyes which in Colombia is close to royalty. She was a bad little girl. She stole my doll that walked and talked. My mom stormed into her house one day insisting to Lena's mother my doll was there. She ransacked Lena's bedroom till she found it hiding in her closet. My mom was not about to let someone take my walking and talking doll. My mom seemed to want that doll more than I did. Somehow she knew Lena was the culprit. Lena then got spanked in front of all of us. I felt terrible for Lena. I figured she should be allowed to steal that doll if she really wanted to since she was my best friend.

Luckily, with all this stressful stuff going on I had Tulia to come home to. She told me all kinds of great stuff I can't remember anymore.

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