We Did It! “Th … Th … Th … That’s All Folks!”

 

It’s Monday ….

Can anyone say “Monday, Funday”?  Or was that yesterday?!?  Yes.  Today is my last day in Sabadell, Barcelona … Spain.  I was just watching the news here regarding the possible secession of Catalunya from Spain … So much going on “politically” world-wide.  Can you say, “Peace … be still …”?!

The trip has been wonderful … after arriving 3 months ago in Sabadell and taking on other countries’ borders and cities to enjoy a much needed trip.  I mean, before I knew it, I was back in Barcelona!  Valencia was probably where I relaxed the most … taking in the beach there – Malvarrosa Beach – and many of the tourist’s sights … as well as the “not so touristy” sights!  Going on from Valencia to Hamburg with a day lay over in Prague was quite an experience as well.  I met some of the nicest people and on one occasion, either a problematic person or a “stupid” person who gave me the wrong directions to an address that was right where I started when I got out of the train there in Hamburg where I asked him for help!  We’ll chalk that one up to experience because I should have looked around before asking someone where a street was … which was directly behind me!  Lesson: “Trust … but not everybody!”  Hamburg was also delightful with the new Philharmonic Hall and the Port of Hamburg, though I didn’t get to see a German friend who lives in Kiel, and, I was momentarily disappointed.  Life goes on …

Amsterdam was a place that I had never anticipated traveling to but had a “funtastic” time there!  The people were kind, the ladies were as beautiful as they were in Prague and Valencia, and I had two unexpected “dates” with people … one I hadn’t seen since leaving White Plains as a teacher!  The other surprise was from a woman who is a yoga teacher in Amsterdam but who knows an acquaintance of mine from Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  So, I had an unexpected dinner in downtown Amsterdam with a former student, Trevor Henry, as well as a boat cruise on the canals in that City’s lovely ambiance with Cheryl Nesbit.  Peaceful people everywhere!  I never intended to visit Paris … but I did!  I stayed there for like five days and enjoyed everything I could from the Eiffel Tower to Arc de Triomfe as well as a foot trip to “The Louvre” … I didn’t go in … I was too tired!  Shucks, I even saw the original “Moulin Rouge”!  I had some of the coolest room mates in the hostel there in Paris, co-ed type thing, and made some cool new friends.  Paris is truly a city with its own “style”!!  From Paris, I took a 12 hour bus trip back to Barcelona where I hung out another month with the same hostess I met when I had first arrived in Sabadell.  After a month or so of more sight seeing, I took off to Valencia again … I just had to see that beach one more time!  I stayed in the City … downtown Valencia … and got to see yet another aspect of this beautiful city!

So, now I am winding up two weeks here in Sabadell again with a cool hostess, Vicky Lao, who has her own Air BnB set up that functions pretty well!  I can tell you that I have had some meals here that she prepared that were superb!  After arriving back in Sabadell, I had the pleasure of meeting an older gent, a retired doctor, who was born in Spain but grew up in New York’s Queens.  We met at a health food store and became friends instantly.  He invited me on a trip to a place called “Costa Brava” which stretches from Catalunya in Spain to the French border where we had a day of relaxation, beautiful scenery and … some excellent food.  Thanks, Francisco!  Tomorrow morning, I will board the Delta flight back to Atlanta and finally to Ft. Lauderdale.  I will hunker down for a few days in the FTL and then probably on to Daytona Beach while I work out my trip to South America …

But for now, “That’s all folks!”

Have a great day and a greater week!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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Notes on Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain

 

Happy Friday, All!

I must admit that I have a pretty powerful “T.G.I.F.” lined up for this morning!  Feeling blessed in many many ways … Peace be still …

Wednesday, I had some challenges getting the e-mail out to “The Family” and tried and tried to resend it to no avail!  Perhaps, one of the addresses was incorrect or perhaps someone doesn’t want to receive any more of them and had me “shut down”!  That’s “the conspiracy theory” about the e-mail disappearance … like in other parts of the world’s affairs!!  You can chuckle if you want because I am only kidding … conspiracy theory against John Cook … now THAT’S funny!

In my last few days here in Sabadell, which is like a suburb of Barcelona in the “famed” region of Catalunya, I have taken note of some pretty cool things.  Sabadell, in particular, is a family oriented “town”, if you will.  The people come out on holidays, like yesterday, and hang out with husband, wife, children and dogs and visit the restaurants that line the streets in the Centre of Sabadell near the mayor’s office, called The Ajuntamiento.  The seniors have their own center and living location with helpers always available.  Those senior citizens who are still able to walk the streets of Sabadell do so in couples … and hand in hand!  When I tell you that I have not seen a fight or an argument nor even a car accident since I have been here, I re-emphasize my level of seriousness.  The people are very civil … not looking for any conflict of any sort.  Yet, as one may note from all of the events surrounding Catalunya’s “independence” here of late, they are awake in the concept of “democracy”.  They have borrowed much of the flavor of movements started by Che Guevara and Martin Luther King, Jr. as they echo their desire for representation in the larger Spanish government … or separation!  There have been multiple marches and activities, the carrying of and waving of the banner/flag of Catalunya at events like the one I attended yesterday in downtown Barcelona at Plaza Catalunya.  The streets were shut down by the police, there were no incidents of “flag burning” or fighting, no throwing of beer bottles, cans or soft drinks.  There was just an orderly peaceful gathering of people who occasionally chimed in on a “Viva Espana” chant coming from an apartment window over looking the street or from a crowd of young people … male and female … touting the flags, faces painted red for the color of Barcelona … and absolutely NO VIOLENCE of any sort.  The environment is beautiful … one in which I could live … if it wasn’t so expensive for a single guy like me …retired and all!

Barcelona is a vibrant old style Spanish city with narrow streets that look like alleys where no violence nor robberies take place … day or night!  There is a very very low level of street mischief like prostitution or drug (marijuana) sales … No hard stuff anywhere though homelessness and “pan handling” are widespread in Barcelona yet non-existent in Sabadell!!!  The traffic is extremely orderly and there is limited honking of horns and NO … I said NO road rage anywhere!!  While I don’t particularly “knock” the USA, we are suffering from a lack of spiritual values … family and human values.  We applaud death and threaten each other on every front possible.  This leaves a society always “on the brink” of a disaster where someone “flips out”, be it a leader … or a citizen.  Life is “tight” … life is propelled by success and money, power and greed … control even.  The fabric of our society … is suffering in the USA.  It has been a great awakening for me to come to Europe … Spain to be exact … and see the family values prevalent that we once held so dear in the USA …

Just some notes …

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Keep Your Options Open … “Think Outside the Box”!

 

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

How is everything going in your life today?!?  I hope it is going okay.  Yes, these are my last few days in Sabadell, Barcelona and I am enjoying it to the “max”!  Last week, I met a guy in a local “health food store” called “Superverde”.  He overheard the cashier asking me about my license from Florida and asked if I was from “The States”.  Turned out that he is a retired doctor with like two or three “children” who are also doctors here in Sabadell and one in Oxford, England.  So we chatted, we had lunch a few days later upon his suggestion.  We even met last night for a coffee where he invited me to a resort region called “Costa Brava”, which lies all the way along the Mediterranean from Barcelona to France!  We are going Saturday for a day trip … Imagine …  Just from a conversation about a driver’s license from Florida.  I am ecstatic and am looking forward to it.

My yoga teacher here, Magda Amour, has a son and a husband who admire anything “New York” … That would include me!  They had invited me to dinner Saturday, too, but I couldn’t determine when I will be back from “Costa Brava”.  We had talked about Friday but her son plays soccer/futbol and has a practice early Saturday morning and they don’t want to keep him up too late Friday night.  I told her that we could meet up for just an hour or so … just to meet.  That would be cool.  We’ll see.

Those who know me well also know that I am an adventurer … in Spanish … “adventurero”.  So, it wouldn’t be a surprise to you if I said that I am looking to retire in another country all together.  I am on the plan right now as I have learned throughout my years that when the motivation and connections appear, it is time to take action.  I had sent a former student a message last week about retiring in Colombia … Medellin to be exact … and she got back to me last night!  The information is astounding.  The cost of living is right up my “alley”, and, I used to live in Cali, Colombia some years ago … teaching English … so the culture is something I am familiar with …  I asked my friend how she compares Costa Rica to Ecuador and Colombia and she said that there is much more to do in Medellin.  In addition to my writing, those things may keep me alive longer … and the health insurance is better and more affordable than in “The States”.  So, I am keeping my options open … looking waaaay outside the traditional “box” of locations to retire for US citizens.  Can you blame me …. and only God knows how many other “ex-pats” there are who have retired outside of the USA … for wanting a comfortable and peaceful retirement somewhere?!?  If you can, I hope you stay in touch!!

Enjoy your Hump Day and don’t stay limited by “small thinking”!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Educational Excellence

Put Your Best Foot Forward . . . Follow Through!

It’s Friday, y’all … and you know what that means!

Yep! T.G.I.F.!!  Let me hear “the peanut gallery” chime in … TGIF!  Yes, yes … I got jokes … still!

Things are winding down for me as I get closer to returning stateside!  Making contacts with folks and getting flight information squared away …  And of course, yes … I don’t want to leave here for certain things I have experienced.  So, I guess I’ll have to take them with me!  I always try to take the best of any experiences with me as I had “taken them all in”, so to speak.  I try not to forget anyone or anything … because nothing happens by accident along this journey we call “life”!  A friend of mine from back in White Plains posted a video on Facebook on my inbox that showed a “white gent” trying to get a lesson across to a group of teens who were racing for a $100.00 bill.  Before he started the race, he had “a few statements” like, “If you haven’t had to worry where your next meal is coming from, take two big steps forward from the start line.”  Another one was, “Take two steps forward if you grew up with both of your parents, Mom and Dad, still married and living at home together.”  “If you’ve never had to worry about your cell phone being turned off, take two more big steps forward.”  By the time he had finished his “pre-qualification” questions, the start line had mostly “minority” children standing on the line and those who had a head start were “white teens”.  He clarified what he was doing and told the kids that this is how “life” is for the human race … some of us have head starts that have nothing to with “us”, nothing to do with decisions that “we” have made.  When and if one makes a serious effort to understand the inequities involved in this thing called “life”, we may be more conscious of the fact that “some of us” have an advantage and have been given a “head start” in this thing called “life”!  Introspection is a tough personality characteristic to obtain and is not one that many of us, especially in “the land of the free, the home of the brave”, could give two sh@ts about since “we” may have been given those “head starts”.  Now, no one is suggesting that you give away your “wealth”, if that is what you’ve acquired, but be more sensitive to those who have had disadvantages in their lives from the very beginning … through no fault of their own, oftentimes.  Thanks, Daryl Goodman, for providing me with that video.

Many human societies have turned “life” in to a race!  So, whomever finishes “first” gets what?!?  A better life … or death?!?  We can always share things that come with our “good lives” and good fortune, perhaps.  We don’t have to be selfish and “blame the victim” so often.  An encouraging word or two or even better … a helpful hand … not “hand out” … I said hand … is better than some “so-called” harsh words of admonishment!  I look at how and when “we” feel giving someone assistance is a “hand out” or entitlement or not!  I could carry on for hours with this one … I just think of our members of Congress and other political offices who get “the best health insurance for life” … even though they are not working anymore.  How about that six figure pension … or more … that some of them get every year for the rest of their lives even after they have stopped working.  I know, I know … many would say, “They deserve it!”  I would beg to differ …  Whether I can convince you or not that this is “in order” or correct is not important for me today.  I am stating this to encourage those who have been brought into this world that “life” is NOT a race or a game that you win or lose!!  Since I have been here in Sabadell, for example, I have not seen ONE car accident nor have I witnessed ONE “street fight”!  The people here are more laid back … more respectful of themselves and others.  They don’t cut corners or cross the street when the light is red … too often!  Those of us “born” with disadvantages can still put that “best foot forward” … even when others look “down” on you for not having what they have!  To me, it seems that “life” has a different definition for them here … It is to be lived heartily, shared with fellow humans (animals included often!) and that it is something to be enjoyed … by ALL.  When you’ve come up with so many “disadvantages”, people tend to look for opportunities to “take advantage” of other situations sometimes in an unhealthy or dishonest way.  That is also NOT necessary.  Put that best foot forward … and good things will follow.  Carry the “right” attitude about life and people who may be able to help you probably WILL help you!  And of course, once you get some help … follow through!

While I am well into my sixties, I have learned to loosen my grip on life.  I have learned to let the good things come … and the not so good things “go”.  I am always as humble and grateful as I can be when given assistance … and when NOT.  I try not to hold any grudges (besides, it is a waste of precious and valuable energy) and try to “keep it movin'” when I am not welcomed or appreciated.  So far, so good!  What thinketh you?!?

 

Have a great day and a wonderful weekend!

Peace,

 

John I. Cook, Director

“With the Power of Love, Anything is Possible!”

 

Happy Hump Day … I say today … pushing back tears for the injured and murdered in Las Vegas …

My first question is … How can so many “nutcases” … er uh … people with extreme mental challenges … have the opportunity to take the lives of so many innocent persons in America?!  When I look at the “big picture”, it seems like the USA is paying for something that it “did” in the past … Use your imagination and knowledge of history and you may arrive at the same conclusion.  Perhaps, not …

I grew up with musicians like Jimi Hendrix, yes, and I was a “hippy” (still am in many ways!) and I protested the war in Vietnam.  I got my education via scholarship at Princeton University at the same time.  Can you hear me say “thank you” to my Creator?!?  I say it everyday, multiple times each day … it helps keep me humble.  Some folks need to learn that ’cause they think that “they” are actually “gods” themselves … and can do and say whatever they want under the guise of “freedom of speech” … even if it hurts someone else.  Most of the time, I try to be a simple person … not ignorant … I said simple.  In other words, I endeavor NOT to complicate the simplest things in my life nowadays … like “truth”, “peace” and “love”.  I have had dear friends who had promised not to deceive me again, whom I trusted and whom I “was there” for as an ear and shoulder when times were challenging for them.  I had to learn that even “those” people … will not live up to their promises … Peace be still.  Thanks to My Creator, I had learned to balance myself within myself and not depend on what someone “said” to me during the moments that we were having a “heart to heart” conversation.  Some people will say, “Well, that’s life!” or “That’s only human!”  I say, that’s bull crap!!  There are some folks who are mentally unstable and NEED to be told the truth!  They can “flip” at anytime …  Be glad that YOU weren’t in “Vegas” when that hideous shooting took place …  Most of the time, people who have these acute problems and symptoms are known to have them by friends … so called friends … even professionals like doctors and psychiatrists/psychologists … husbands or wives, parents or siblings … even children!  Yet, “they” try to hide the truth … until something bizarre takes place!

In two weeks, I will be returning to the USA …  there are international laws that prohibit even Americans from “landing” in another country and just “staying there” as long as they want.  My trip began as a birthday treat/mental and physical health “retreat” and turned into a “lesson of life”!  You’ve heard the expression: “It’s great to go to certain places on vacation, but to live there is another thing.”  It’s true … because most tourists want to flaunt the fact that they are “tourists”, spend their money, request things of others because they have money, and then leave those same places without having appreciated the fabric of some of those societies and cultures that they have visited, especially the people.  In my journey, I didn’t just “touch down”, spend a day or two acting rich, then went on to my next destination for a couple of days with the attitude that “Hey, I am a tourist … I can act like this!”  Some tourists are indeed unreasonable.  I personally, like to hang out with “the people” of a country or city … take metros and trains, buses and walk while on vacation and retirement … even with two arthritic hips!  Shucks, when I was in Paris, I walked from my hostel to the Arc de Triomph and The Eiffel Tower, past Moulin Rouge and a couple of other cool places until I couldn’t walk anymore!!!  I sat down at a cafe, had a croissant and a fruit juice, rested my legs … and got on my path again.  On those same trains and at those tourist attractions, I had young ladies  as well as well as folks near my age offer to “carry my suitcase” up a flight of steps of the metro or pick up a coin that I had dropped while buying something from a vending machine.  Like I said, I try to keep it simple and not put on “airs” … unless forced to!

I can hear “Jimi Hendrix” now with Buddy Miles jammin’ the tune “The Power of Love” … Yes, I was a hippy … and still am in many ways.  I am fortunate that I have some friends who come through in moments of challenges in my life.  I love these friends, and they love me!  While in Europe, I met so many nice people who gave me directions to where I was going, some accompanied me, assisted me with my luggage and was even glad to see me on multiple occasions at the front desk of a hostel or residence where I was staying!  Yesterday, on my way back from Valencia to Barcelona on the bus, I met a young lady who turned out to be a doctor in Valencia who was on her way to Glasgow for vacation.  She actually invited me to sit next to her and explain a bit about “The Affordable Care Act”, known to many as Obamacare and clinched her teeth when I described how it works and whom it covers.  She was in shock that the current president wants to get rid of it and is doing everything he can to curtail its existence … as well as the existence of the people who may rely on it!  I was fortunate enough to meet people in the countries I traveled to, mostly young people, who admired the fact that I am a retired teacher from America traveling through as much of Europe as I can, getting to know the culture and the folkways and mores of the people whose country I am visiting!  They appreciated my openness, my honesty … and my love!  I also appreciated theirs.  For those of you who know me, and who know what it means, this is why I say “Namaste”!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Take Me Back to Valencia!

 

Happy Friday, All!

Yes, well … I am still at it!  It would be great having a traveling “tourist” life style  in retirement if I had the money …  Let’s see what happens … who discovers me or whom I discover!  Always an optimist.  So, T.G.I.F as is in order around here … whomever you consider your God to be, so to speak, if only a power greater than yourself!

I am in Valencia again.  This time, I am in a more residential area called “La Lonja”.  There are quite a few sights which I will capture today in photos and it is not such a college oriented area.  It is “downtown” … of course, every place has a “downtown”, quite often, several downtowns!!  So, I am in one of them … you know … people on the streets drinking and chatting until “the end of the night/beginning of the morning” type of downtowns!  Yeah, and there is a typical Spanish style balcony here where I am staying just big enough for one chair and one small eating table … and a window overlooking the narrow street!  I am “living with the people”!  I love it.  It’s a studio apartment with dishes, microwave, refrigerator and bathroom/toilet and air conditioning!  It is called the “United Colors Apartment”, a building renovated right in the downtown area near one of the “mercats” or markets, which I will visit shortly.  It is a little ways from the beach which I plan to visit today or tomorrow, for sure.

Traveling … and alone again, naturally … one can learn a lot about oneself!  How much stamina do you have?  How well and how far can you walk with arthritis?  How happy can you be and how grateful does that happiness make you when you accomplish your mission?  It is a treat for me!  I learn to ask for directions and unsuspecting souls actually help out!  I immerse myself in the moments because we never know when they will end … or how it will be tomorrow …  Just glad to be alive and rather healthy and able to push through life’s dramas in style!  Thank you, My Creator, for wiring me this way!

I will be here for 4 days … the weekend … and leaving Tuesday to head back to Sabadell, Barcelona where I am currently sharing a bedroom with my new good friend from Argentina, “Cris”, and the other two house guests – Hilda and Quing Yin, from Indonesia and China respectively.   We are all guests at Vicky Lao’s home in Sabadell.  I will be there until the 17th of October when my flight leaves BCN (Barcelona Airport) going to ATL’s airport and the last leg back to Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport!  I have gotten a lot of information about retiring abroad, I have learned some tricks and made a few contacts as well.  It is an experience, which, if you can, one ought to try … There are a lot of senior travelers out “here” from so many countries, some of them in groups and others “flying solo” like me!  I am a “people person” and love “people watching” as well as sitting back when I can and enjoy “the local vibe”.  Can “you” get along with other people without “thinking” that you are in “control” of them?!?  I can, and that is why I am usually fortunate enough to meet some very fine people … not perfect, but very fine!

I will immerse myself in the culture here in Valencia, looking to locate that local “vegetarian Valencian paella” that some of my friends from the gym in Sabadell told me about as well as locate the beach here again.  I am a little ways away from it but that never stopped me before … and it won’t stop me now.  Valencia … here I come … AGAIN!

Have a great weekend!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Who Says So?!?

 

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

Who says so?!? I do!!  Keep in mind … it’s all relative.  Now, I am not getting “deep” as we used to say back in the days of St. Paul’s and the rise of “the black intellectuals”, for lack of a better term … I am just putting the cards on the table, so to speak.

Doubt is like a disease.  Yet, ignorance is a similar one, in my opinion.  I grew up during the times of Malcolm X and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as  Mahatma Gandhi.  These are my heroes … not to mention, Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay.  These were people who challenged the status quo … the “regular” patterns of thought and went way outside of “the box”!  They were “ahead of their time”; but in my opinion, they were right on time.  We just couldn’t follow their steps as a civilization … a society or culture that is able to last over a long period of time!  For me, a hero is one who is interested in preserving humanity … one who sees beyond turning something into a “profit” for the moment.  Many have spoken out against the injustices to humanity and one such situation has the entire nation, at least NFL football fans, at odds! Colin Kaepernick’s story has become like a wild fire.  It is parallel to the most recent presidential election and all the drama that “it” has drummed up.  What do we do when “reality” hits us in the face?  What do we do when an out of date electoral college systems allows yet another president to get elected without … WITHOUT … the majority of the population voting for him/her?  What do we do with a national anthem, written during slavery and containing words clearly acknowledging that slavery was ( and is it still?) a part of this nation’s fabric … and those of slave heritage refuse to stand and acknowledge it?!  What do we DO?  Do we keep riding down the road as fast as we can in a car or vehicle, throwing trash out of the window and thinking that when our children grow up, the trash will mysteriously disappear?  Can we change the course of “humanity” so that we as a civilization are “able to last over a long period of time”?  Or … are we too greedy and dishonest, too selfish and warped to see that we are leaving a world that is in bad shape for “the children”?

What do we do … What do WE do?!?  It is clearly a collective effort that is required.  Sometimes, I wonder about our human “intelligence” and what has happened to it when looking further ahead … beyond our next dollar or paycheck!!  What happened to, “If it’s wrong … it’s JUST wrong … and NOBODY should do it!”  Where are our heroes when it comes to preserving humanity … not a polity or economy?!

Yes, I am still abroad … planning on returning briefly in a couple of weeks.  Still looking for an affordable place to retire, probably alone as I have no one that is looking to pull their own “weight” with me.  And of course, I will be fine … I MUST be fine …

Have a great Hump Day.  Choose wisely and stay accountable … if to no one else … to yourself!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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