Friday, July 25, 2008

Who Has the World's Most Public Holidays?

Today was yet another day of celebration here in the Island of Enchantment, it is Constitution Day. During the month of July, Puerto Rico observes four public holidays! I tried looking up to see which country in the world has the most public holidays, but I couldn't quite find a definite answer. Nevertheless, I would not be surprised if Puerto Rico makes it to the top 3. After all, Mother and Father's Day are considered to be public holidays. Obviously, this doesn't necessarily everyone mean has a day off. However, I would say those who work for the local government have it quite sweet. They have a total of 21 days off for the entire 2008 calendar year. Incredible, isn't it? Meanwhile, Federal employees have a total of 10 days. When I worked in New York, in the private sector, my employer gave us six days.

I don't mean to complain, but it certainly is interesting to compare and contrast. Unsurprisingly, the U.S is the most productive country in the world. Americans work long hours and days. Puerto Ricans have a completely different mentality. Generally speaking, Puerto Ricans have a much better sense of work/life balance. I'm adjusting to the cultural differences. However, I still find it hard to believe how everything is closed on Mother and Father's Day, except for businesses located in tourist areas. I suppose this means I must get my shopping done in advance.

(Photo Credit: Carlos Giusti/Primera Hora)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Learning through Music

Ever since I came back to Puerto Rico, I've re-discovered the beauty of the Spanish language. A wonderful way to enjoy spanish is through music. Even if you don't speak a word of español, I think you'll enjoy the video above. This song is constantly on the radio here, it's sung by an Argentinian group called Los Cafres and I find myself singing to it whenever it hits the airwaves. I think music is such a fun way to learn a language.

I confess my Spanish is not perfect but I can hold a conversation very well, and I don't have the typical gringo accent. Yes, I can roll my r's! In my case, as I was born in Puerto Rico, I was fluent when I was a child. However, I practically lost all my ability to speak español when I moved to New York at a very young age. So, I am now making up for lost time. I did take Spanish in high school, and was exempted in college, but I never spoke it on a daily basis. Even amongst my Latino friends, we only spoke English. I know, it's such a shame. However, I acquired two other languages, English and Chinese (Cantonese), while growing up in New York.

Now that I'm back in the Island of Enchantment, I am trying to speak as much Spanish as I can. The best way, obviously, is to practice by speaking with the locals. This, however, is not easy. People look at me and assume I don't speak a word of Spanish and automatically speak to me in English. Yes, it's annoying. Nevertheless, I speak to them in Spanish. I also have someone who always gives me the best Spanish language books to read. Although I'm not a subscriber to the Coffeebreak Spanish podcast, I know it's a great resource for those who wish to learn Spanish. Last, but not least, it's all about the music. Listening to music allows you not only to learn the language, but it also teaches you a lot about the culture.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Happiness Measured

Yet again, the "Island of Echantment" has made it to the top of another
list. This time, it was a study done by the World Values Survey which recently concluded an investigation of the world's happiest countries. Here are the top 10 :

1. Denmark
2. Puerto Rico
3. Colombia
4. Iceland
5. Northern Ireland
6. Republic of Ireland
7. Switzerland
8. Netherlands
9. Canada
10. Austria

According to the study, some of the world's unhappiest countries are Zimbabwe, Iraq, and Russia, amongst others.Whenever I come across these findings, I just ask myself... can something so subjective, such as happiness, really be measured? Yes, I'm well aware that these researchers most likely use some sort of formula to give weights to certain data findings (i.e life expectancy, political stability, GDP per capita, etc.) in order to come up with a number. However, I just can't help but take these surveys with a grain of salt.

Based on the findings of this latest survey, researchers concluded the strong correlation between prosperity, democracy and happiness. I suppose this makes sense because democracy allows individuals the freedom to pursue his dreams. Unsurprisingly, money is not the most important factor when it comes to happiness, as the U.S ranked 16th. After a certain point, money can only mean so much, right? In conclusion, this study found happiness on the rise in 45 of the 52 of the countries surveyed in which data was readily available.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th!

It's a long wíken ("weekend" in spanglish) here in Puerto Rico as well. A friend of mine, who lives in New York, was quite surprised that we celebrate the Fourth of July here. However, since the Island of Enchantment is officially part of the U.S, it's really nothing out of the ordinary. Besides, who would object to a day off from work? As most Americans celebrate the birth of their country with barbecues and fireworks, so do many people here.

I would say that most Puerto Ricans do not consider themselves to be American, despite having a U.S passport. For the record, those born in Puerto Rico are automatically U.S citizens. However, if you ask a local of what nationality they are, he or she would most likely say "yo soy boricua" (I'm Puertorican). Obviously, there are many American influences here. Not to mention that hundreds of Puerto Ricans serve in the U.S military. There are just so many gray areas in life. For better or worse, I believe most people here know their fate is intricately tied to the U.S.' I think the commonwealth status of Puerto Rico symbolizes a marriage of convenience. Indeed, I find Puerto Rico to be an interesting place because it seems to be in conflict with its own identity. An independence party does exist, but they never seem to gather enough support among the constituency.

On the 4th of July, for most Puerto Ricans, it's a day to relax, and head to the beach. All government agencies, and many local businesses as well, are closed. Have a great 4th!