This week the girls walk around showing off their nails. As the days pass there are more girls lined up outside my classroom, hoping for a manicure or pedicure. There is so much I want to give these girls and where to begin is sometimes so difficult. I suppose the only real way to start is to try to show them how beautiful they really are.
My step aunt Kristina gave me the best advice that I had been given in a long time. Before leaving for Haiti, she told me to pick out some good colors of nail polish at any department store and bring them with me.
At CVS I picked out ten bottles of nail polish in five colors. It cost me ten bucks and its benefit, as I am learning more and more, is priceless.
There are so many beautiful women here in Haiti. Strong, independent mothers who raise their children on their own; young women that are still learning their bodies and their desires; small children that look at the world and know of nothing beyond it. These beautiful women have dark features and dark eyes. They braid and lock their hair in various ways, experimenting with their natural limits. They have little — an outfit or two is all they own yet each day they do all that they can to be clean. They meticulously wash their clothes and their faces. They take pleasure and pride in things they can change in their life- their appearances, their attitudes, their outlooks. Yet with the work that they put in daily, walking from place to place in thin sandals, their feet are always a mess.
On my sixth day in Haiti the neighborhood girls wash their feet with buckets of water and brushes. They dry them with towels and we all sit on rocks together in a circle. These beautiful feet crowded around in anticipation. I open my purse and remove five colors of nail polish- glitter, green, and various shades of pink. Then, one by one, I take the girls’ feet and paint them coral, magenta, pastel. When each finishes, the group showers her with compliments. “Ou belle!” They exclaim to one another. “You’re beautiful!”