The moment you touchdown on La Isla del Encanto, a symphony of applause ripples down the aisles from local hands in celebration of the safe landing back home.
In the home of salsa dancing and piña coladas (virgins are still a celebratory drink if you ask me), you can find mid-day fireworks sparkling in the hot sun, reggaeton music pumping out the speakers of a car a half mile down the road, and a whole lot of warmth, friendliness and pride.
From the paint on the houses to the manicures of most chicas, so much of Puerto Rico is bright, colorful and alive. In most neighborhoods, you'll hear roosters crowing, dogs barking, laughter from a big group of family members gathering in the home, people singing, and the chatter of elders sitting on white plastic chairs in the front yard. Even most homes are set up with congregation and celebration in mind, with the living room where a kitchen table would be.
Celebrating is the name of the game in Puerto Rico.
Local businesses demonstrate that seemingly all holidays are observed to celebrate with friends and family. Life comes first, everything else comes second.
Coming to Puerto Rico with with the innate values of my American culture, I was quickly shown to adapt and learn or suffer in resistance. While Americans value personal control over the environment, time, and individualism (sourced from the University of Portland), Puerto Ricans value family, respect and faith. An essay from Penn State describes Puerto Ricans as "sensitive, empathetic partiers with a relaxed sense of time who admire intelligent, hardworking, dedicated people who view criticism, aggressiveness and greed as rude (Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, 2014)."
I've found that living in a new culture is as easy as my humility and openness is prominent. The more I embraced and accepted the differences, the more value I found in them, myself. The more value I found in them, the more flow came into my life. I even think I've become a better person.
Puerto Rico has shown me yet again that there is no "right" way of being or doing. There are many opposing truths. I've been taught true surrender and the power of acceptance. This little island has made me more patient, more flexible, more relaxed and open-minded than I ever knew I could be, and how much of an illusion control really is.
For all that, I am so grateful. Puerto Rico has taught me that there is no better moment than now to enjoy and celebrate life. What else is there?