Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Worldwide Alert on the Swine Flu

"No veo cómo una persona en Puerto Rico podría (contagiarse) con gripe porcina," said the designated Secretary of Health, Jaime Rivera Dueño in an article published in "El Nuevo Día" this past Sunday. Translation: I don't see how someone in Puerto Rico can become infected with the swine flu. Perhaps I'm going out on a limb here, but I think Mr. Rivera has not seen some of the latest statistics. Cases of the swine flu has spread to countries as far away as Spain, Israel and New Zealand. Although there have been no confirmed cases of the swine flu here in Puerto Rico, as of yet, I think it's too early to eliminate the possilibity.

The local authorities are working with the officials from the Central Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, and the island is said to have enough vaccinations for 1.4 million people. This is about 35% of the population. Some of the tips given by the CDC is to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards, and avoid contact with sick people, as influenza is spread among people who cough or sneeze. For more tips, please click here. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified this outbreak a phase 4 pandemic alert, and is no longer able to contain it. FYI: yes, it's still safe to eat pork, as long as it's fully cooked.

Update (6/24/09): there have been 22 confirmed cases of the swine flu in Puerto Rico.

(Images obtained from the Associated Press and El Nuevo Día).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Domestic Abuse and Violence

Domestic violence is a very serious problem in Puerto Rico. Generally speaking, many attribute this to the machoism inherent in Puerto Rican culture. Sadly, the justice system here has also failed to help and protect most victims. The Oficina de la Procuradora de Las Mujeres is the local government agency in charge of women's issues, one of which includes domestic violence. So far this year, five women have been shot to death by a boyfriend or husband, and don't forget the countless others who have been beatened and battered. I know we are inclined to think of abuse as something entirely physical, but I believe mental abuse is just as bad, if not worse. It's also sexist to think of women as being the only victims. Especially when it comes to mental abuse, I believe men can often be victims as well.

Personally, I have never been (or know anyone) who has been in an abusive relationship. However, according to the Website of the National Women's Health Information Center, here are some of the tell-tale signs of an abusive relationship:
  • Monitors what you're doing all the time
  • Criticizes you for little things
  • Constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
  • Controls how you spend your money
  • Humiliates you in front of others

For the complete list, please click here. If your spouse or partner exhibits any of these behaviors, help is needed.

(The image above was obtained from http://www.womenshealth.gov/violence/signs/)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Countdown to Earth Day

This Wednesday, April 22nd, marks the 39th celebration of el Dia de la Tierra (Earth Day!). If it wasn't for a very good friend of mine, who kindly reminded me, I would have completely forgot about it. Unfortunately, Puerto Rico is not eco-friendly and it can be quite frustrating for those who strive to be. For starters, finding a garbage disposal company which offers recycling services is close to impossible. Of course, this depends on which part of the island you live in. However, I live in the San Juan metro area, the most densely populated region in the entire island. Wouldn't it make sense to have recycling available?

Although we've been able to find recycling companies, they refuse to come pick up because we don't meet their requirements. In a nutshell, we don't generate enough recycleables and they'd end up losing money by making a trip just for us. Believe me, it's frustrating. Whenever I'm in the Netherlands, where my significant other is from, I am always amazed at how environmentally-conscious the Dutch are. Western Europe, in general, is much more eco-friendly than any other part of the world. Before I even land in Amsterdam, I see the huge wind turbines from the plane in the North Sea. You just can't miss them, because there's just so many. I probably sound like a complete dork, but they look absolutely incredible!

One day, I'd love to see Puerto Rico filled with solar panels. Despite being so close to the equator, and all the sun it gets, solar energy is not something which Puerto Rico has taken full advantage of. This is such a shame. The local government has recently proposed a series of incentives hoping to promote the usage of solar panels, heaters, etc. If only the government seized the opportunity 20 or 30 years ago, Puerto Rico can be a model of solar energy like Denmark is to wind energy.

(Earth Day graphic obtained from www.earthday.net)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cherry Blossoms and Chowda'

It's nice to feel the warm sun and the island breeze again. Stepping out of the plane, and onto Boricua soil, the humidity felt nice and familiar. What an incredible difference from the past two and a half weeks! It's always nice to come back to Puerto Rico, but there are many things which I miss about living on the mainland. I suppose that makes for another blog entry. This trip, I served as a tour guide for someone close to me, who hails from another part of the world.

During our visits to DC and Boston, we got rain the first day, and bits of sunshine the following day. Despite the bad weather, we managed to see and do quite a lot. Although I've been to both cities, I went to college in Boston, it's always nice to show a first-time visitor around. We traveled from NY to DC on a Bolt bus, which has affordable prices and offers Wi-fi! However, they were half an hour behind schedule, and they did not have reserved seating on our bus. Their Website does say "reserved seating" as one of their "features."

Once we arrived in DC, we saw lots of cherry blossoms! We also visited many of the museums along Constitution Avenue, and took pictures outside the White House and Capitol Hill. The next day, we had to take refuge at the Lincoln Memorial because of the heavy downpour. While we were in Boston, we had the same type of weather. We had lunch at the revered Union Oyster House, and had some delicious New England Clam Chowder. We had a wonderful time visiting both cities, which are so different in character and ambiance.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

One of the things which I do not miss about New York is the weather. Yesterday, when we were running one of my favorite routes (over the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges), I looked up and thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I thought I saw snow, and it was indeed snow! Now, of course, seeing flurries in the Big Apple in April is really no surprise. However, I've forgotten how unpredictable the weather can be. In Puerto Rico, the weather is as steady as it comes. I never even bother checking the weather unless it's hurricane season.

Although I love the weather in Puerto Rico, and I no longer desire the big city life, I will always consider New York City to be my home. I was born in Puerto Rico to Chinese parents but was raised in New York by a very traditional grandmother. Growing up, I made frequent trips back to the island to visit my parents and brother. I'd compare myself to an onion sometimes. There are many different layers of me. My parents themselves grew up in Cuba. Needless to say, I come from a mixture of different cultures. For this reason, New York is really the place where I feel most comfortable. This is where you can be your own person, and it's also where you won't feel like an outsider. After all, the city itself is comprised of people from all over the world. There's truly no place like home.