“Everything Happens for a Reason . . .”

 

Happy Friday, All!

So, pardon me while I T.G.I.F.!!  Ahem … Thank you!

How many times have you heard that “everything happens for a reason”?!  I am sure you might tend to agree if you are over say … 15 years of age!  It usually takes a few years before we realize that “the stuff” that we often wanted to do was better left undone!!  It is all part of the maturity process.  Sometimes, even after we have accepted the relevancy of such an anecdote, we still doubt.

I am hanging out in a quaint animal type sanctuary part of Costa Rica.  I am in Cahuita but have had the chance, as suggested by a taxi driver in San Jose who is from Limon – the region where I am staying, to visit Puerto Viejo.  Many of you probably know that there are two sides to Costa Rica – the Pacific side where many of the hard core surfers and “well of” ex-Pats visit and live, and, the Caribbean side, a little more nature-driven with sloths and all kinds of birds and other small animals!  At night, nature’s chorus helps me fall asleep as well as the fresh relatively warm air and the morning sounds of nature with every kind of bird “singing his song” that one can imagine.  There are no high rise hotels on the beach nor lavish restaurants like the ones I saw in Sitges, Catalunya, Spain.  There are no museums and statues across Puerto Viejo … only one or two story restaurants and cabin-style hotels and hostels!  Yet, I find it a place of peace and solace … most people say hello when they see you while other locals are more focused on their “home peeps” rather than travelers.  There are a lot of couples traveling together, backpacks mostly and camping gear – shorts, mosquito repellent, maybe a tent and hiking boots.  The restaurants and shops have small kitchens for making a home-cooked meal of beans and rice and your choice of chicken or fish as well as your favorite healthy smoothie!  One of my favorite smoothie shops though a little expensive is “Puerta Pirata”.  The regular smoothies cost about 4 or 5 dollars while the supreme ones run about $7.00.  My favorite restaurant is called “Gueto Girls”, run by an African Costa Rican, Marie and her daughter.  I ate there yesterday, beans and rice, salad, patacones and a strawberry/”Pipa” (coconut meat)/banana smoothie … all for $7.50!  Yesterday, Marie and her daughter connected me with a woman who has a hostel that she wants to sell … I told them that I was looking for a place to rent!!

After Marie’s daughter had contacted “Joann”, she came by the restaurant and we chatted a bit inside the colorful, wall-less restaurant, with decorations of every kind from carvings of birds to paintings of ocean shore scenery common there in Puerto Viejo.  Joann took me for a ride to a part of Puerto Viejo that I hadn’t seen!  The street was bustling like a Caribbean town might with no street markings for drivers and literally hundreds of people in the street, backpacks loaded up, people seated at a quaint restaurant or a line of folks at the “jerk chicken” stand just across from the beach!  There is everything from reggae music playing to the golden oldie sounds of “Lou Rawls” or “Aretha Franklin”!  There were folks jumping in and out of the water, there were a few yoga village set ups with one woman giving a gent a beach-side massage!  All I know is that the sound of the ocean, the waves, even the wind blowing through the palm trees in this 85 degree Farenheit weather is heavenly.  We met up with a couple, a guy from France and a woman from Czech Republic, who were playing around in the water.  Turns out that they were looking for a jelly fish and other little “blow fish” to add to their huge home aquarium with a selection of orchids that “Jerome” had transplanted from some plants he had found along the side of the beach!  Shucks, Joann even took her fishing net out of the truck, got halfway into the water and caught a couple of jelly fish for Jerome and Marushka!  These folks took turns taking me by the hand to walk across the coral and rock as well as trees and leaves to get as close to the water as possible.  Some waves lapped up onto my calves a couple of times as the waters ebbed and lulled intermittently.

As Joann drove me back to the area of Puerto Viejo where I catch the bus back to Cahuita, she told me of all the complications surrounding renting/selling requirements and how there is no real system.  It is best to hire a lawyer, she said, even for citizenship issues.  I saw a couple of law offices tucked away off the main road but didn’t have a chance nor an interest in speaking with one!  The folks I hung out with also explained that the price of food is going up and there are some shortcomings to a regular “health plan” there in terms of the services you receive.  While there were some places that I could rent, they are mostly cabins with shared kitchens and I would need more time and help to figure it all out!

One more week here and I will probably head back to San Jose for a few days and look to catch a flight to Colombia … Medellin, to be exact!

Have a wonderful Friday and a better weekend!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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“Life Is But A Dream . . .”

 

Happy Friday, All!

I always like to show my appreciation with a hearty T.G.I.F. …. no matter whom you choose to call your “higher power”!  Some folks do as they like while others follow “Good Orderly Direction” …. hmmm ….

Alicja wrote me back yesterday to let me know that she got the e-mail.  I mean, we met on a bus going to the same town … Puerto Viejo.  While she is staying there, I am staying just a half hour away in Cahuita, which is a little less busy.  She informed me that she appreciated being introduced to you all and “found” what she was looking for on her journey there in Puerto Viejo.  I think I will return there today to check on a few things … maybe even a power smoothie with peanut butter, chocolate, bananas and almond milk.  They have a very cool smoothie shop there with vegan stuff, including food, right there on the beach in Puerto Viejo.  I must return to the National Park here in Cahuita because after I finished lunch at the restaurant there yesterday, I started to walk but the tennis shoes I had on were NOT cooperating with my feet.  Looks like I need to wear “flip flops” there, too!

Last night, the neighbors here had a “Reggae fest” music-a-thon until like 2 or 3 in the morning!!  I had fallen asleep and then was awakened by heavy reggae beats and singing as well as an occasional scream of “Okay!” by the rapper from the states (ATL) named “Little John” which was mixed in to the reggae beats based music.  I mean, it was like a “block party” for the whole tiny “pueblo” of Cahuita!  Later, around 3am, I woke up … no music … but the rain had begun!!  Sometimes, we just have to go with the flow, but “Git ‘er done!”

I am feeling rather spiritual today.  I am in an incredibly natural environment here … no tv in my room … and I am feeling good about it all!  My arthritis still troubles me and I have my wooden cane that I purchased in Valencia, Spain to get me up and down sometimes … and help keep me from falling!!!  When was the last time you all have heard someone say that?!?  Yeah, that’s where I am at … Yet, the journey continues!

Enjoy the Full Moon, the weekend … and the first day of December!  2018, here we come!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Tranquility Beckons Me . . .

Happy Hump Day, y’all …

The journey moves forward as I have been fortunate enough to make it to Costa Rica, and am on my second leg of the “road” here.  I first arrived in San Jose at the airport which is actually in Alajuela … not San Jose, per se.  I was drilled over and over again about how the airport is not actually in San Jose to explain why the taxi ride from there to “San Jose” is anywhere between $30 – 50 USD … and you can NOT take a bus with your luggage!  There are no trains …

I woke up this morning at 4am to the sounds of the waves which are at least two blocks away from here … just below a slight cliff-like structure obviously caused by nature’s erosion …  In the background, I could also hear two roosters … perhaps three dogs barking back and forth … and then silence again.  The waves continued to roll in and out of the natural bay just down the road from my “cabin”.  I can tell you that I have not experienced anything comparable to this!

The dogs continued doing their “call and answer” barks until some of the sounds of the birds … some sounds that I have never heard before … unique chirps, even, added to the natural cacaphony!  It was still relatively dark out and I am enjoying waking up with no sounds of cars, trucks or buses … just nature.  I am feeling this!  I am in a “cement cabin” with a queen sized bed, a clean well structured bathroom with a shower and toilet, mirror and a sink.  There is a window with two modern wooden fixtures which open inwards and are covered with a dark blue cloth as the window is screened in.  Right outside my window is a hammock hanging … just for me.  Each room, all of which are NOT single like mine, has a hammock directly in front of the room’s window.  Ahhh … nature at it’s finest and simplest level!  I am loving it.

As some of you may remember, the motto to my little entity called Educational Excellence is “know thyself”.  Now here’s the catch, so I am learning.  We will not be young and agile forever … in this state of energy which as the human experience continues causes the vehicle … the vessel … our bodies to age.  While I absolutely enjoyed Barcelona and the Plaza Catulunya, it is not a place that I think would suit me well for a retirement apartment.  I would probably be out in the street each night trying to “be young again”!!  This morning, I feel good … adjusting to the changes that my body is going through as I attempt to find a place to live until I expire, perhaps.  I mean, it is the reality of this journey – it will come to an end in this form.  Don’t get me wrong now ’cause I can still jump on a bus, like I did yesterday, to a more scenic yet “laid back” coastal town of Costa Rica called Puerto Viejo.  Can you say, “Oh my God!” … or OMG will suffice in this case?!?  It is scrumptious with nature, rolling waves, dark sand beaches, trees including palm tress dotting it, thusly the name of the beach is “Playa Negra”.  It’s very clean; there is a hand painted sign, “No bota basura en la playa!”.  Now while it is relatively clean, with just a few plastic bottles and papers visible here and there, the ambiance is way outside of the “box” of a typical tourist destination.  The people here are of all colors and nationalities  –  I met a young lady yesterday from Poland on the bus from Cahuita where my cabin is on the way to Puerto Viejo.  She said that she was staying there for a few days.  After we chatted a bit and I spoke with her about my blog, business and e-mail family, she gave me her card … I didn’t ask.  She wanted to be included in the e-mail family because she is also a writer of spiritual sorts.  Her name is “Alicja”, pronounced like we pronounce “Alicia”.  She is included in this edition, I hope you like it, “Alicja” and thank you!

The bus ride was scenic, to say the least.  Much like the bus ride from San Jose to Cahuita, except the road was even narrower and more dirt.  There are these bridges which can only handle one car width at a time amidst the two way traffic.  The day before yesterday, there was one accident because it was drizzling, or “spitting” as the British say, and the driver apparently lost control and the car slid across the road onto the “soft shoulder” of the oncoming traffic!  We got held up for a few minutes … er uh … maybe a half hour!!

Once in Puerto Viejo yesterday, I just sat down on the side of the beach on a “Tom Sawyer” styled hand made wooden bench pushed up against a tree, since it’s legs were not working so well …  Ahhh, the peace … the serenity of the waves as they lapped up on the dark sand beach!  Some folks were in the water snorkeling, no cost!  Others were working on the bottoms of their small powered boats, cleaning the rust and decay from them, while others put another coat of paint on theirs.  There are no McDonald’s nor Pizza Huts in Puerto Viejo and there is one disco/bar that I saw called “Johnnie’s” sitting right on the beach itself.  It was closed while I was there but I may try to get there Friday evening … it depends on how I feel!  Nothing to prove to anyone, no one to ask or consult.  Things I do now actually depend entirely on how I feel!  My wooden windows are open now and the sounds and sights of nature are just outside.  No tall buildings, no noisy traffic, no whistles blowing … just the sounds of nature.  I think I am going to hang around here for Christmas, perhaps, as I have a made a few contacts and will visit an apartment or two today, maybe a cabin, that may be for rent there.

I will answer the call of my destiny as soon as possible.  For I believe that tranquility beckons me!  Get over the hump!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Faith and Belief … in Yourself!

 

Happy Friday, All!

Yes … and as is customary here at E.E., T.G.I.F.!  Hola de San Jose, Costa Rica!

Arriving in San Jose has been a joy for me … I needed to get away again.  I think back to when I got back from Europe and had called the sergeant from the Internal Affairs Division of the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department.  I asked him how the “investigation” into my complaint against the motorcycle officer who tried to force me to sit on the curb on the “4th of July” on Ft. Lauderdale Beach because I responded to something he said as he sped by on his motorcycle in the bicycle lane on the Strip amidst the activity and entertainment there.  He screamed, “Get out of the street!”, to which I replied, “Where are we supposed to go?”, since there were barriers placed on the street to protect people on the sidewalks from the “snail crawl” traffic there on A-1-A during the “4th of July Celebration” there on Ft. Lauderdale Beach.  Do you remember his response?!  When I asked him how the investigation was going, he answered: “Oh, I put that on hold since you were away.  How was your trip?”  I curtly answered, “Great! So what can I expect from this investigation into my complaint of being racially profiled that day on the beach by the motorcycle cop?”  He replied, “Oh, do you have a phone number for your friend who was with you that day?”  (Note the incompetency here!)  I replied, “No, he is an entrepreneur looking to open a French restaurant somewhere … and … uh … why do you need to talk to him?  I filed the complaint?!”  “Yes, I know, it’s just that I like to speak to everyone involved that day.”  I said, “Yeah, sure, but your officer told him to move away from me and not to do or say anything … the white Frenchman … while he ordered me to sit down on the same curb with “4th of July” traffic on it that he had just yelled at me to get out of the street from!!!” … It was then that I realized that the complaint fell on “deaf and dumb ears”!!!  THIS is why I don’t want to spend a f@#$&*g quarter in a country where my rights are not even considered valid and the officers in Ft. Lauderdale’s Police Department behavior goes “unchecked” by their very own Internal Affairs Division!!!  So, I saddled up my stuff and mounted Spirit Airlines for the second leg of my journey in search of a retirement location to live OUTSIDE of the States … Damn shame … Some people don’t want to do their very important jobs and work on their own assignments while I am on vacation!!!

Probably nothing will be done … and someone else of color will be “killed” as soon as one of those “idiots”  with the gun has a bad day!!!  After arriving at the airport in Alajuela and contacting a guy who offered to get me a driver who would charge me ONLY $30.00 from the airport to the hotel instead of the $50.00 that drivers usually try to charge people who have arrived at the airport, I felt a little better!  The hotel/hostel staff was very helpful at getting me settled into this humble area of San Jose, Costa Rica.  I could see the poverty in this town where the saying is “Pura Vida” as the taxi crawled through the traffic in the pot hole ridden streets in some areas lined with homeless people laying on the sidewalks … peace be still …

It was cloudy that day … and it is cloudy today!  It has rained every day that I have been here and is partly cloudy today.  I was able to buy a ticket – $10.00 – for a 4 hour bus trip to Playa Negra in the small Caribbean coastal town know as Cahuita, Costa Rica!  I am in need of a beach … there are none nearby … so … on Monday, I am out!  After meeting a lovely Australian couple who just moved to Bogota for their early retirement and another couple from New Zealand who are the Australian couple’s friends, they invited me to have a “chicken” Thanksgiving dinner with some “modified fixin’s” of a stuffing, small white potatoes, including 2 chickens, lots of beer and Margarita drinks … some chips and chicharrones … bread and green beans!  It was fun … travelers learn how to get along with each other, if “they” don’t already know how!  We talked about everything from the US president to Australia’s president and stories of an aborigines group in Australia whom the British couldn’t and still haven’t “conquered”  in Australia to this day, after each of us said what we are grateful for in our lives!  In case you haven’t experienced it yet, do travel abroad.  It is a great experience.  I personally like to be amongst the local people when I travel rather than in a “5 star hotel” for two reasons.  The first one should be obvious – money!  My trips would be over a lot sooner if I opted for a 5 star hotel everywhere I went!  The second reason should also be obvious – I like to be around the people who live in a town … the locals …. at the parks, the beaches, sometimes, even in the buses!!  I am grateful … very grateful!

So … as far as my previous concerns with prostate cancer, I am over that.  I am using a more holistic approach for healing as the cancer had NOT spread to my bones or tissue.  I drink an herbal tea with ingredients to detoxify the prostate each day … sometimes two times.  I bought the tea in Barcelona at a local street fair and the package was big enough that I have only consumed less than half of the bag.  I am keeping myself calm, avoiding all arguments with people and not getting involved in the “day to day drama” that people like to perform in!  Once I find a “Shangrila” somewhere, I can focus more on improving my diet by cooking more plant based foods.  Nowadays, I will have a falafel “anything” rather than a burger, though I might still eat one every now and then.  I still like a little chicken and fish and am keeping a close eye on myself … while I continue on my journey!

Have a great day and a wonderful weekend … still Thanksgiving Weekend in the USA … with lots of football games (American football) family, friends … and food!

Peace Out!

John I. Cook, Director

 

Get Excited!

 

Happy Hump Day, y’all!

It’s another day in “paradise” … I mean … I am still here!  You folks have been the best “audience” I was ever gifted with!  Now, you already know that if you want to be removed from the mailing list … let me know!  Just a reminder, I always ask permission if I can include you in my Educational Excellence E-mail Family list when we met.  Again, I reiterate that I do not want “hostages” for readers.  I have come a long way with this concept of an e-mail family and blog and plan to continue with it as I am on this journey.

So, here I sit in my buddy’s place in Daytona Beach.  You may remember, his name is John Young.  We grew up in The Winbrook Projects in White Plains, New York, and, as many families in the PJ’s go, we had children of the same ages and our parent(s) often knew each other, and possibly were even friends!  It is the community concept that permeates “project living” with so many apartment buildings containing so many people and families.  In short, John and I became good friends even though he has a brother, Reggie, with whom I used to hang out with as we are the same age.  John is 65 and I am 63 … Reggie is 63 and is living in Syracuse, NY.  John “Old”, as we used to call him because he was always so mature, and I became closer and closer over the years until finally, we both ended up living in Florida!!  His son, Jordan, lives in West Palm Beach and has two lovely sons and a daughter.  So, since he didn’t travel with me to Europe, he promised me that I could crash at his place a few weeks while I organized my “next leg of the journey”!  So, “here I is” … loving it and appreciating his friendship!  Friends like this are HARD to find.  We have been dining out and catching up, and, he just arrived back home from Jamaica last night after a 5 day trip.  He is retired but still working a bit for now.  I just want to travel …  now he is saying he wants to do the same!  He’s getting excited!!

Monday, John “Old” will drop me off at the airport in Orlando where I will catch a flight to San Jose, Costa Rica to begin the next leg of my journey.  I am really looking for  place to retire and live … and write.  My degenerative osteoarthritis has gotten worse after all of my walking in Europe … but I can still move … just slower … and I bought a “mean hand made wooden designer cane” from Valencia to assist me and keep me from FALLING!!  It gets tough some days … but I try to be tougher … though sometimes it ain’t easy.  My plans include a stay over in Costa Rica unless I can find an affordable place to stay there; then on to Panama … I’ve heard so much about it.  If necessary, I have a friend in Medellin who has been keeping me abreast of rental costs for apartments there.  Yes, I am getting excited … you bet!  This will be the last e-mail from North America ….   I appreciate you all for reading … Thank you!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Dedicated to the One I Love!

 

It’s Monday …

Yep, we are beginning another week and the first full week of November 2017 …  It is another day in “paradise” … I often like to think!  Yet, we get a full moon and a church shooting in a small town in Texas!!  I was watching the Kelly and Ryan Show as it came on this morning.  Kelly was at a loss for words, regarding why this happens so often in America … murders in churches and Vegas and elementary schools … and … and …  The president said, “This is not a gun issue, this is a mental health issue.”  What leadership we have …  I can’t take what “America” has turned in to …

On November 9th, I will be remembering my mother, Marietta Dolores,  who expired after a fall during the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma.  Some of you may remember the circumstances … Over ten years ago … I still live each day, remembering both she and my dad.  I think of how they would want me to be living.  Most of us just “follow the leaders” or everybody else in life.  One thing I have done with my life is NOT necessarily live it the way someone else lives their life.  I take into account my temperament, my income, my work and play activities, my interests and goals and desires … as well as the short comings.  I have mentioned more than once how I would like to retire in a foreign country.  I have my reasons for not wanting to sit by in this country and watch all the mayhem and confusion during my “last days and time”!  I think my mother would agree with my efforts of traveling and visiting places that I haven’t gone to before.  My father, on the other hand, was a “land lubber”.  He didn’t like boats or planes and only liked to travel when he drove!!!

Thinking back to the calm and peace I found abroad, I remember that people can NOT own a gun in Spain.  People don’t blow their horns at the traffic light and no one revs their car engines or motorcycles in the street looking for their “15 seconds of fame”!  I am glad that I was raised by both of my parents.  Mother was a peace monger and Father was the provider and protector.  There was no arguing and fighting allowed in the house and not between the siblings.  Peace was something that we did … as a family.  Church and Sunday school was on the itinerary for the weekends in our family.  I am looking for that environment for my retirement.  So, next week, I am finalizing plans to go to Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia.  In memory of my “traveling mother and provider father”, I am looking to find that little place where I can spend a few of my last years, writing and reading, healing and hopefully getting to finish my third book … Peace be still!

Both parents taught me unconditional love in their own ways.  I know I was loved …  My mother had a special love for me as the baby boy and also as the “world traveler” following in her footsteps.  I made many many friends abroad and hope to be able to visit a few places again.  I didn’t get to visit Italy though I have been to England before.  I thoroughly enjoyed my new friends and experiences in Europe … Spain in particular.  I am off to “The Next Episode” in a few weeks.  Wish me well … We’ll stay in touch!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

I Don’t Want to Talk About It

 

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

Nowadays, I just try to keep a positive attitude, a positive outlook on my plans as well as seek positive human beings along this journey.  Needless to say, the journey takes on different characteristics as we mature and enter say for example, retirement age or senior citizen status.  In reflecting on my experiences abroad, I must admit that the concept of family is stronger in the European nations that I visited and seniors remain an important part or component in their culture and society.  Some twelve years ago, my mother passed away.  It was a very difficult time for me, the baby boy, watching her in a comatose state.  I remained around her for as long as I could once it was decided that we would remove the life support.  I had my moments with nurses for her and visitors who didn’t seem to quite understand that this person was MY MOTHER.  I had to request that one nurse be removed from her room after seeing her treat my mother callously as if an animal or pet.  There was one “guest” to her death bed that made me so upset with their playful nature around my Mother’s death bed, I had to repeat the Serenity Prayer multiple times!

So, Halloween came and went with festivities including a crazed “terrorist” who drove a rental truck down a bike path in Manhattan, NY.  There is a serial killer, purportedly, in the Orlando, FL area and special prosecutor Mueller has begun his work identifying individuals who will be charged with crimes against the government, in particular during the recent election.  I don’t want to talk about the current president and only want to hear who has been found guilty, since most of us knew before hand that there were criminals working with the current president … money launderers and liars, to say the least!  For me, at this time, I am really enthralled by the manner in which some American cities, like Orlando, are helping the people of Puerto Rico who suffered greatly after two hurricanes crossed the tiny island.  One of my college “friends” whom I haven’t had the chance of meeting yet, Cora Monroe, is a professor there in Puerto Rico and has been keeping many of us updated via social media regarding developments (water, electricity), supplies, make shift hospitals and doctors.  In fact, Orlando is looking to house individuals and families who have been arriving to Orlando from Puerto Rico utilizing a program to rent hotel rooms for them and starting to fund “prefab” homes for them to occupy.

So, not that it may matter to you all, hopefully a few of you, I wanted to dedicate this piece to the survivors of the New York City “lone wolf” terrorist attack as well as the deceased, the recovery of those victims of the hurricanes, including a good friend whom I am visiting in Daytona Beach, John Young, but also my college chum, Cora Monroe, and the folks in Puerto Rico and even those here in Central Florida as they recover from the effects of the most recent two hurricanes.  November marks the end of hurricane season … I think we’ve had enough.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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