One of my favorite things about Nigerien women is the way they smile. Particularly the middle aged village women. They are often young grannies with faces worn by a lifetime of harsh realities and rough terrain.
The lines etched on her skin tells a story of perseverance and durability. The reward of bearing the role destined to her since birth.
The deep tones of her skin compliment the vibrant hues of her traditional dress.
Her lips taught and pursed as her eyes betray the fatigue of her body.
But suddenly her eyes meet mine. My stare merges into a smile. And that's when it happens!
It starts with her tired eyes...they widen as she stares back with intrigue. Then there's the sparkle.
The sparkle makes all the difference.
When you see the sparkle, you know her whole face is about to melt into the most luxurious smile.
Her skin begins to glow. Her cheeks lift high, leading her lips to their place.
With her mouth widening, she flashes her teeth as she starts to chuckle to herself--wondering at this silly stranger smiling at her...just because.
She let's her teeth rest exposed only for an instant while she forgets herself in this moment. Reflex-like, her fingers lift to her lips as she half hides the enormous grin that is now sprawled across her face.
Try as she might to keep it hidden, her whole body begins to share in the joy her face is expelling.
She giggles and looks away...but not for long.
When her eyes return to find mine again, her hesitance is gone. She has found her confidence and drops her hand.
And there she is.
Strong and alive.