Friday, July 9, 2010

Defining beauty

I live on a mountain. Behind my building, there's a slight valley before the hills swoop steeply up. The hills are covered with greenery, foliage, flowers, and pathways connecting people's homes. On our property, a vast variety of flora lines the road, fills the median, and decorates the parking area. A planter or a garden fills every available space. Out our bay-sized living room windows the city spreads out below, and the contours of the bay are clear as long as the gusts of rain and clouds don't fuzz the view.

Is this beauty?

Down the hill, in a camp, a woman begs for help. She's been given a list of vaccines she needs to get for her son, each one with a price. She asks us if we can help because her son is sick, and doesn't understand that vaccines are meant to prevent illness, not cure it. So we go with her to her tent where her son lies sleeping. We walk by the latrines, down sandbagged trenches, to a tent built out of blue tarps. She steps in, over a knee-high gate, walks over to a double bed covered with white sheets, and picks her sleeping baby up from the white bed. She brings him out and attempts to straighten his hair as he rubs his eyes and goes to sleep. We decide he's not sick after all, just tired. She hugs her baby and looks up at us and smiles.

Is this beauty?

At an upscale restaurant in the nice part of town, wealthy citizens and NGO workers converge at a bar-restaurant. Their meal is served in dainty quantities in seamlessly artistic designs on white plates that show off the food's colours. The drink beer and wine and joke about the local gossip of the day. Each person arrived in an SUV, each woman's hair is perfectly coffed, and each man's cologne smells expensive. The evening out costs an average of USD$40 per person and the waiters wear tuxedos as they navigate through tropical decor to serve the customers sitting on lush white cushioned seats.

Is this beauty?

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