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

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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

Take It All In

 

Happy Friday, All!

We’ve got to put one in for the TEAM … so … T.G.I.F.!

“What would you do if I sang out of tune?!” …  What would you say if I told you that I WASN’T having a nice day?!  Would you encourage me to do better or simply criticize me and try to make me feel worse?!  We all know that encouragement only goes so far … yet is far better than harsh criticism.  Still, I remember my Dad who used to come at me pretty hard when I wasn’t “in tune”!  Yet, he was my “father” … I could take that though I had to learn that it meant that he loved me … wanted to see me do better.  His life had been hard for him so he seldom “sugar coated” anything.  Perhaps, that is why I try to encourage people to better themselves in a “kinder” fashion … when possible!

Yes, I am still abroad from the USA … I don’t miss the drama and politics of a country that once claimed to be “the land of the free” and “the home of the brave”.  We have been divided beyond recognition … in my opinion … by a political apparatus that seeks to do just that … divide and conquer … or something like that.  Many folks are still choosing “sides” and acting as if it is a “game” we are playing with our lives … our children’s lives … and our planet!  Peace be still …

While I am not a pessimist, I am a realist in terms of accepting what is to come … like death … Don’t get me wrong, now.  I am NOT thinking about suicide or any crazy behavior that could lead to my death.  I passed that stage back when I was about 12 or 13 years of age.  Thank you Mom!!  But I do know that I won’t live for ever … and that it could end at any time … this life I have been gifted.  Is it really “mine”?  Or must I share it with others?!?  I embrace both “schools” of thought”, so to speak, and care for myself dearly as well as share of myself … yes … dearly!  I am enjoying a good “90 day” vacation and am still in Spain.  The reality is that I am looking for a place to retire … outside of the USA … as so many “ex-pats” have been doing for years!  I want to be “at peace with the universe” in my last days and time and pay homage to “My Creator” … the rest of these “mofos” can “Get In Line!”  Next weekend, I want to travel to Valencia one more time before I go back to the USA.  I truly enjoy the ambiance of the Mediterranean Sea … as I do most beaches and bodies of water … and Valencia stole my heart!  So, I will spend a weekend there, return to Sabadell, Barcelona, hopefully get to see “Montserrat” and prepare to arrive back at stateside around October 18th.  One thing that I have been sure to do … even when working through the challenge of arthritis in both hips, sometimes walking with a cane, other times “roughing it” … is taking it all in!  I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the coolest most real people in my entire life … and I’ve been around for a few “24 hours”!  I am appreciative of the “new friends” that I have been able to meet whom I would NEVER have met stateside!  Beautiful young people, charming Parisians and Barcelonians, funny and curious Germans and happy go lucky “Amsterdamians”!  Needless to say, I am loving it and “taking it ALL in”!  Who knows when I will be able to come this way again?!?  Make sure that when you are given an opportunity of a lifetime that you do exactly this … take it ALL in!

Enjoy your weekends!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

False Prophets

 

Happy Friday, Y’all …. ALL y’all!

Yes, I am feeling chipper today … not only because it has gotten a little chilly here in Sabadell, and is cloudy … no sunshine in sight … but because I have all this gratitude in my attitude …. AGAIN today!!  And … it’s Friday … AGAIN!!  T.G.I.F.!

Life is such a great gift … especially when one doesn’t have so many complications.  I mean, I will accept mine WITH the complications.  I guess I wouldn’t be “Me” unless I had and have complications to help shape me and form me.  Yet, I learn to handle each new one with renewed insight and strength.  I try not to let them … complications … wear me down.  Yesterday, I took a trip to an area of Barcelona called Barceloneta … It is close to the beach, the Port of Barcelona, and is rich in sights, tourists and street vendors, not to mention the competition of the local stores to lower their prices to compete with the street vendors.  There are some pretty cool restaurants, too.  I ate at one yesterday called “Taller de Las Tapas” where I had my favorite, calamari lightly fried and salted … with a ginger ale on the side.  I was just getting started on my adventure and needed a little energy to endure the casual 10 – 15 minute walk to the beach along the bustling harbor.  There were yachts in the water preparing to go out while others were just coming in and cleaning up, there were vendors on every inch of space along the side walks and tourists as well as locals all over the place!  The energy was swell.  I was able to saunter, meander and walk like there was no tomorrow!

Me and EE … you know, Educational Excellence … have this saying: “Know Thyself!” which we borrowed from Socrates and probably some other great “philosophs” of earlier times.  Have you noticed how many people think that they know everything … I mean EVERY DAMN THING … about me and you and the rest of the universe … and they don’t know much about themSELVES?!?  How annoying is that?!?  I could go on and on about the current president being an example but the one that really hit me was his comment alluding to the fact … alternate fact, of course … that Fredrick Douglass IS still alive!!  It just goes to show that some people will say anything just to seem like they like you or want to get along with you when they are really “sucking you in” to believe whatever they say.  Then, they say something completely hideous, that unless you are willing to be ignorant like they are, you finally realize that they are full of sh@t!

Here along my journey which is most definitely an “adventure” of sorts, I have realized that I can call upon another level of existence, of knowledge … of energy that I didn’t know that I had.  One thing I do have is a lot of self-confidence.  It’s hard to shake this “old horse” from believing what “he” already knows to be true.  I do my research first … then flap my lips afterwards, if necessary!  Sometimes, you can’t even converse with some of these “know-it-alls” because they continue to insist that … “they are right and you are wrong”!  How hideous, right?!  I can’t reduce myself to that level of existence … doing something or believing something … worse yet SAYING something that I know (or don’t know in Scrump’s case) to be wrong!  How do you do that?!?  This is another thing that I am grateful for … for knowing how to and believing in doing “the right thing”!

People come along when “we” are hurting and try to sell us on a complete bill of bull crap!  No shame in their game … just to be darn “right”, though wrong, for a second at the expense of a “broken-hearted person” or a “helpless soul” … so that they can feel “superior” … falsely superior.  To those kind of folks, I say, “Get the eff outa here!”  And please, stay out of my face with your pompous ignorance … it’s the worst kind.  I have found that I can learn something from just about anyone … even a liar!  I can learn what they hope I believe … I can learn what they fear in ME … and learn what they lack in themselves.  Sometimes, if they calm down … I am even willing to try to help them realize what they REALLY want other than to lie to me and have me believe it!!  Reverse psychology, you dig?!

So, my dear hearts all over the world out there, beware of those “false prophets” who rely on your ignorance of yourself … they know that you don’t know yourself … so they try to convince you that you are whom they NEED you to be.

Be well, have a great weekend … I will!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

A Kinder Kind of People

 

Happy Hump Day, y’all!

Just in case you didn’t know it, I am still at it! Still writing my pieces and still in Europe … Spain to be exact, on an extended vacation/birthday celebration/early retirement “party”!  You say that you’ve never heard of such a thing?!?  Neither have I … it just happened!  It all started when I wanted to leave the country not only because Scrump got elected, but because I wanted to celebrate my birthday in Spain.  Yet, I’ll admit that there is a long time female friend in Germany that I was hoping to see who in fact was supposed to meet me in Barcelona when I arrived.  Her plans changed but mine did not!  I hadn’t been to Spain in over 20 years when I visited Madrid.  I wanted to come back and see the other part of Spain that I have heard so much about, Catalunya to be exact!  I am use to adjusting my plans, making new ones, and starting over if necessary.

After meeting an incredible hostess, “Vicky”, I was able to stay in Sabadell, Barcelona for two weeks.  I then decided to move on as most of the readers know to other places.  I was enraptured … can I say that … by what I found.  Not only here in Sabadell were the people “curious” about who I was, most of them were courteous as well!  When I got to Valencia where I stayed for another two weeks, I met more incredible people … still here in Spain.  Soon, I decided to go to Germany but changed my plans back and forth a few times from going to Kiel where my friend lives or going to Hamburg, which is another historical city that I wanted to see.  Throughout my journey, I have had people offer to help me with my over-sized “duffel bag” on wheels either up or down the stair ways to the Metro and trains, including in Prague a young lady who gave me directions by train to the hostel where I was staying in Hamburg.  Once, in Paris, I was on my way down the stairs to the train and a gorgeous young lady offered to help me carry my bag down the stairs to the train platform.  We got in the same car and she even gave me her seat, which she had procured since she had gotten on the train first, after I pulled my bags, which included my laptop and a suit bag as well as a hand bag, onto the car!!  In Valencia, the staff at a hostel/dormitory where I had my own room, Colegio Galileo Galilei, was so kind that I immediately “fell in love” with them!  The food there was great … croissants, fresh orange juice and splendid coffee (cappuccino) every morning in moderate proportions and a great price.  I hit the beach in Valencia everyday I could, and encountered mostly charming people, sunbathing … the women topless … the ambiance was as warm as the sunlit beach there in Malvarrosa, a sprawling sun-drenched beach full of happy people of all ages and sizes jumping in and out of the water.  Shucks, I even encountered a yoga class on the sand at the same beach as well as a Tai chi class also there on the same beach, both for free!  I can truly say that I want to go back again, just for those reasons.  I saw some of the most impeccable museum sights there as well as in Barcelona and was able to enjoy multiple architectural creations in the form of La Catedral de Valencia as well as a free museum, Museu de Belles Artes de Valencia, there on a Sunday with incredible works of religious and Gothic art!  I wanted to revisit Spain again … on my way back from Hamburg, Amsterdam and Paris!  So here I am … back in Sabadell!

The kindness shown me by so many people along my journey has caused me to re-evaluate my retirement locations.  From here, I was able to see that there are still very kind people in the world.  The “America” that I have lived in most of my life is one that suffers from delusions of superiority to other countries and cultures.  While New York City and the Pentagon were also hit by terrorist attacks, “some of us” choose to point fingers at Paris, London .. shucks even Barcelona for their liberal policies towards immigrants.  We had multiple terrorists in our country, known by our “intelligence agencies” who were still able to pull of the biggest terrorist attack in history!  Here in Europe, the people are still kind to Muslims and Jews … gays and lesbians … and in general display a kind of kindness nearly long forgotten in many places in “America”.  Our competitive edge and desire to accumulate more wealth and power than ever has decreased our “humanness”, if you will.  At my age, I prefer kindness over intelligence … I am not impressed by how “haughty” a person might be able to behave, but more so by the kindness they display.

Have a great Hump Day … and think on these things.  I have a particular friend in social media, Lois Iannone, mother of one of my favorite yoga teachers – Christen Scott in the Jupiter area of Florida, who often posts suggestions of kindness for us to embrace.  I thank her … and I thank you all for reading.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Make Your Own “Music”!

 

Happy Friday, All!

Here’s to wishing all my friends, readers and others in the path of Hurricane Irma to be and remain safe … Peace be still … a Happy Friday, T.G.I.F!

Have you ever realized that some people may not like you … or your “music”, so to speak?!  The way I see it, we EACH have our own song to sing … have our own music to compose, perhaps using different “instruments” than are customary.  Hopefully by now, you understand that I am using imagery to encourage each of us to ultimately “be ourselves” … or as I had it in my yearbook my senior year at St. Paul’s School:  “Be Yourself … Because You Are You!”

Sometimes, life’s circumstances are NOT what we had hoped for or expected.  Things turn out different.  And … no matter how hard we “push”, things aren’t going to change.  Now please don’t confuse this as my saying just give up!  First of all, because you know I would never suggest that.  Now, let me add some clarity to what I am saying.  Okay, so I have been here in Europe for almost 2 months now.  I like it in Spain … Sabadell, Barcelona to be exact.  The hostess of the home where I am sitting right now is someone I met through an AirBnB reservation.  I was already at the airport in Spain when AirBnB “suggested” to her, since they were cancelling my reservation, that she should do the same …!  I had gotten an approval and confirmation code from AirBnB before I left Ft. Lauderdale. This woman, Vicky Lao, a 66 year old Catalunyan retired business woman and teacher, upon realizing that I had flown from Florida to Spain and had no other options other than the “street”, decided to let me stay at her home anyway.  She sent me the address once my cell phone was able to get messages, gave me instructions on how to arrive using the local train systems, and, once I got lost … decided to meet me at the top of the stairwell of the Metro station which was maybe 30 feet from the entrance to her apartment building … with a cane in her hand!  Can you hear her “music”?!!  I stayed two weeks here with an agreement NOT through AirBnb but between the two of us, had my own little bedroom, was able to shave and shower whenever I wanted, and she prepared meals for ALL 3 of us staying in her home!

After traveling from Sabadell, Barcelona to Valencia by train where I stayed for nearly two weeks, I then flew to Prague and Hamburg where I stayed for four days.  I had a great time and Vicky followed me on Facebook, noting my adventures and commenting.  My next stop was  to Amsterdam by bus since it was close to Hamburg and on the “route” back to Spain.  I stayed there for like 5 or 6 days … had a blast, met a former student from White Plains High School and met up with a “friend of a friend” from Ft. Lauderdale.  I was taken to dinner by Trevor Henry, a younger brother from White Plains, then taken on a canal cruise by Cheryl Nesbit, a yoga teacher who is the “friend of a friend” I met while apartment hunting in Ft. Lauderdale!  I enjoyed myself.  I wanted to live in Spain since I had had such a great time already.  After staying in Paris five days and having a sight-seeing, people meeting adventure in a hostel there in the Art District, I took a bus back to Barcelona where Vicky invited me to stay while I figured out my next move.  I wanted to live in Spain … After checking the requirements for a residency visa, I found a snafu … they require a background check from the local police department where a person is living, or from the FBI.  I would have to go back to Florida and prepare the necessary paperwork to apply for the visa.  Shucks, I have been turned down for jobs in Ft. Lauderdale after a potential employer did a background check on me!  So, I am abandoning the idea of living in Spain and now seeking to investigate “living abroad” in South America perhaps, where the regulations for living in a country are less strict.

I am going to keep on “composing my music”,  some of which you all are reading, continue to seek peace and spiritual development … and my Creator willing … to travel!

Have a great weekend, stay safe out there in the path of Hurricane Irma and wish each other well.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide

 

Happy Hump Day, All!

It’s another wonderful day in the “world community”, as I am grateful to be able to see it today!  Each of us has the chance to live life based on the opportunities we have been gifted with or exposed to and we have to make the best of it.  I have found that my inspiration comes from various places at different times.  I just “lift up” my antennae in a safe and comfortable place, and allow the vibrations to flow in.  That’s how I get inspired to live and to write.   Just last night, I was listening to JayZ and Linkin Park on Spotify before I dozed off to sleep as I needed some inspiration to make some tough decisions.  JayZ was spitting his usual New York City street rap using the “b-word” and the “n-word”, the way I use “love” and “peace” in my writing, and the music of Linkin Park had my toes twitching!!  I was enjoying the groove.  Shortly afterwards, with my antennae up and my search for answers, I considered how some “artists” are able to sell millions of dollars of recordings as both JayZ and Linkin Park are able to do.  I thought of a conversation I had with a guy from Argentina I had met while staying in a hostel in Paris …

We got comfortable enough with each other to discuss the use of the “n-word” in solving some of the racism problems in the USA.  This is not the first time I have addressed this controversial yet “powerful word” which takes on different meanings depending on the “user” and “the context” of the conversation.   There was a book, probably several by now, written on the “history of the n-word”.  I seldom use it, but accept the use of it coming from someone whom I KNOW is not going to come back ten minutes later when they get mad at me and call me an effin “n”, you dig.  “Brothers” use it with “other brothers” because we know that ten minutes later, one of us is not and CAN not use it to put the other down in a racially charged “setting”, if you will.  The guy from Argentina was saying that he thought the “n-word” and its usage should be banned … Can we really “ban” the use of a word?!?  We can “run” from it but we can’t “hide” from it …

Right now, I am investigating my early retirement plans … trying to iron out the wrinkles!  Of course, some of the “wrinkles” are just going to be there … folks are going to see them.  While some folks “make up” stuff to put another person down, rather than up, some “stuff” actually happened … as is the case with me.  Some folks want to go back 10 years … 20 years … to find “stuff” to hold against you to prohibit your progress.  They have never heard … nor do they believe … that “the past is the past” and some of us have made mistakes and CAN change!  I found out yesterday that in order to work under contract or “legally” in Spain, I need to have residency, which requires a host or domicile address for three years.  I have tutored in the USA “off the books”, so to speak, and am planning a strategy to do so here in Spain.  Needless to say, I would like to visit a few other places like Thailand, perhaps … Sweden and Norway when it’s warmer … maybe even North Africa!  I like it here in Spain though I don’t get as much “bang for my buck” as I would … so I have been told … in Thailand or Costa Rica or Ecuador.  Do I go to these places instead of staying where I am with a bedroom in someone’s home … hot meals each day … clothes washed and dried on a regular basis … included in the “rent”?!?  Now, while I do take suggestions from folks, I also do my own research and have my own “reasoning” capacity!  I ain’t runnin’ and I ain’t hidin’.  I also ain’t waitin’ for no hot headed cop in the USA … I use that term loosely … to detain me, try to push my buttons and end up stopping my early retirement!!

Have a great Hump Day and a wonderful rest of your week.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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