“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Guinea can be ugly. I’m not even talking the trash everywhere and open sewer system in the city. Life here is harsh and can corrode your soul if you let it. Last week, the chef de classe (the leader of the students) of my 12th graders passed away. He was bright, positive, funny, and motivated. He died in a motorcycle accident. Almost 100% of the girls here are excised. Potential futures are robbed daily by malnutrition, lack of employment, and lack of opportunity.
But I see the beauty. I see Ismael, a 19 year old orphan who reads novels in English and wants to be a doctor. I see Saliou, a 12th grader who will spend his summer not on vacation but instead running a small boutique. I see the Guineans who participated in our recent “Youth Entrepreneurship Training Program” Training of Trainers, who are jumping at the bit to get back to their homes and start teaching their fellow citizens business skills. I see the students at the high school, who flock around me begging to work with them on their English skills so they can be more employable. I see my host sister kissing her daughter and teaching her how to cook rice. I see the fat, giggling cheeks of the baby I sit next to in the taxi ride to Conakry. I see the entire community joyously dancing and singing at a baptism. I see friends and family members unite and help each other in any time of need. I see the beaches, the palm trees, the rolling mountains, the flat deserts.
Life here is harsh, but that doesn’t negate happiness.
Beauty and happiness are everywhere, if you only open your eyes.