Paths to Happiness Series No. 8: Smiling in Adversity

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Paths to Happiness Series No. 8: Smiling in Adversity

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CUBA

You need to be fairly resilient when your country has spent 400 years as a Spanish colony, 60 years under one-party Communist rule, 58 years under a US embargo and have had food rationing since 1962, and where your new car is likely to be fifty years old. Yet despite all of this the Cubans still manage to be happy people.

Their capacity to cope with the difficulties of life is to ‘resolver’ which means to solve problems, to find a way out of tough situations with a combination of inventiveness and initiative but above all with humour.

In Cuba daily life revolves around the three ‘ch’s’. They are the choteo, a withering quip usually about authority or austerity, the chiste, the joke told about anything and anyone and the chisme, the national pastime of gossip.

It also helps to drink gallons of rum, dance to the beat of salsa or the cha cha cha, and sing and listen to son, the Cuban music which is a combination of Spanish and African rhythms; mambo, and reggaeton whose roots lie in reggae and in rap music.

Yes, when the going gets tough the Cuban route to happiness is to gather round, make light of their difficulties, and to party.

ALBANIA

Killo at Pexels

For 500 years Albania was under the thumb of the Ottoman Empire and was subsequently occupied by Italy and Germany. When at last the country became independent until 1989 it fell under the brutal and repressive rule of Enver Hoxha.

Despite being a deeply religious country almost all mosques, monasteries and churches were destroyed and the practice of any form of religion was forbidden.

It is difficult to retain a sense of happiness under such conditions yet the Albanians continued to practice their Catholicism or Islam in secret and to live their lives according to their codes of avash, avash, and besa.

Avash, avash, means slowly, slowly. Take your time, savour the pleasures of the land and the countryside. Besa is the tradition of extending hospitality, especially to strangers. Often Albanians will share their food or lend a helping hand only if the recipient promises not to try and pay.

So be kind, be hospitable and take life as it comes but slowly.

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