Celebrate LIFE!

 

It’s Friday, All!

Give it up for ourselves … and our Creator!  T.G.I.F.!

Yes, it is a week of celebrations here!  I didn’t see anyone carrying any statues of “saints” out here yet, but I hear that in some parts of San Jose and other “pueblos” in Costa Rica, they do it!  Whatever your deal is, celebrate LIFE!

Now, I am not one to judge anyone else, but I do prefer friendships with some consistency.  You can have a “falling out” but … come back to your senses.  This is one of the things I appreciated the most from my parents … they taught me to be a consistent person.  Say what you believe … after some thought … and do what you think is right!  Some folks get caught up in these “ego trips” trying to hurt other folks … who possibly care about them.  There are us humans who push other humans away and discourage others from trying to help them … their little “egos” got bruised so … they’ll do something drastic … like change their name or tell a parent that they “hate” them!!!  I am one who was raised to believe that “you make your own heaven and hell right here on Earth”!  I know, it’s a controversial thought indeed.  Yet, know that what you think about “all day” … you are becoming “Yourself”!  So, if you preach hate and revenge, it is simply a symptom that one is not happy with … yep … ones SELF!

I have been through a lot of things in my life … but one thing I try really hard to do is be consistent.  Thank my Creator and my parents that I learned that at an early age.  I also thank them for the fact that I was able to inculcate some pretty good values … like truth, forgiveness, understanding … yes and PEACE!  Some folks go around looking for a darn war or conflict.  I don’t waste my precious “life force” and energy trying to create something “negative” in someone else’s life … through my own behavior.  How ridiculous can one be!  Hopefully, maturity and peace will find their way in to these people’s lives before they expire!

Here in Puerto Viejo, as it is one of the popular “vacation” spots even for the locals from nearby and as far as San Jose, it is getting crowded!  It’s like a “street fair” in the “jungle”!  But this “jungle” is quite tame.  Lots of shops and small “sodas” or restaurants that serve “comida casera” (home cooked meals) and tourists and visitors from all over adorn the beaches with their families and cooking gear … some even brought tents and campers!  Puerto Viejo has come “alive” for the “holy days”!  Look for ways to celebrate LIFE, folks, during these festivities.  Look for ways to embrace humanity rather than separate friends and families and cause quite often irreparable damage … to ONES SELF!  Forgive and move on … life is too short … and precious!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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Feliz Semana Santa (Happy Easter Week)

 

Happy Hump Day, Yeah!

Y’all know what time it is?!?  Oftentimes, folks don’t celebrate some of the Christian based “holy days” because they are believed to be founded in “pagan cultures”.  I can understand their concerns.  Yet, as the African Americans who experienced slavery in the “usa” did, many oppressed people found vehicles in the controversial religions they were forced to accept to find some solace, some serenity … some peace!  Shucks, some of us even got fancy and founded an “Underground Railroad” utilizing stanzas from church songs as their signals to escape the inhumane life found on most plantations for the “slaves” … Peace be still!

One quick comment about the lifestyle in Puerto Viejo … we get a lot of mold on our belongings, clothes even!!!  Yes, yes, at first, it turned me off!  I was like, “Mold on my $100 blue leather shoes from Barcelona!?  Hell naw!!”  Should I abandon a good place to heal and live “la pura vida” because my blue leather shoes keep growing mold in the more wet weather?!?  Not an option!  So, as I do with my leather belt before putting it on my moldy smelling jeans, which I often hang outside on the breakfast nook to air out, I grab my trusty rag (an old sock or t-shirt) and wipe the bad boy off!!  I had packed my Princeton beer jacket away in a suitcase, hoping that mold wouldn’t grow on it … Think again, “Einstein”!  I had mold all over my cap and the jacket!!  I shook them out well, as I have learned to do most of my clothes one or twice a week, and am hoping to get a good wash at one of the laundromats that charge to wash and dry your clothes by weight.  So be it … one of life’s simple circumstances.  The good thing is, I wear shorts and swim trunks every day … and I go to the beach … every day!  So, my pin striped suit is hanging on the door and my $100 black wing-tip Spanish leather shoes are still tucked away in my “shoe locker”, which may also covered with “rain forest” weather mold!  I am staying anyway … here in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Limon, Costa Rica!

Most of the Spanish (Catholic) based countries in South America, including Colombia where I lived for 5 years, celebrate “Easter Week” or “Semana Santa”.  It corresponds with “Spring Breaks” in other countries like the “us” and the schools are closed for the entire week.  There are multiple celebrations, depending on where you are in South America.  When I lived in Cali, Colombia, South America, Semana Santa was serious!  People lined the streets, no traffic in Cali, and each person had a candle in their hand which was lit by the candle flame from the person immediately next to “you”.  And the chain of lit candles “wormed” through the streets until finally the procession of “Saints” constructed of large wooden figures finely and ornately decorated to commemorate their role in the Catholic faith for these people are carried by human hands and shoulders past the waiting throngs of celebrants!  One year, my mother came to visit me in Cali for Semana Santa and she was in awe at how beautiful and peaceful the processions were, not to mention the people!  Here in Puerto Viejo, I have yet to see exactly what takes place.  Right now, people are flooding the small streets and the huge beaches with families and grills, some cooking out for a day and others camping out for the week!  I’ll keep you all updated for Friday!

So, sending out peace and blessings to those of you who do something on Easter … or Semana Santa!  Find some reasons to love each other during this historically traditionally festive time.  Make it work for YOU and YOURS!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Let It Marinade!

 

Happy Friday to you all!

I just want to get it in while I can … T.G.I.F.!

Yes, I am still here in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Limon, Costa Rica!  Adjusting to the “jungle lifestyle” is quite interesting … for a suburban born New Yorker, so to speak.  I mean, I chill as I stroll each day with my “baston” from Valencia … clad usually in the surfer shorts or bathing suits that I have here … and a tank top and flip flops!  A lot of folks walk all around town bare foot but I haven’t evolved to that yet.  Yes, I am sitting here at my desk with a cup of tea made from carcuma, ginger, a dash of pepper and a touch of honey.  When I woke up an hour ago, the sounds of the jungle, so to speak, were very soothing.  One can make out all different types of sounds from the species of birds here, not to mention the roosters doing their “call and answer” songs as the dawn approached.  The “howling monkeys” who live in the trees near the downtown area of Puerto Viejo though up a bit from the main road can be heard blending in with the dogs who bark intermittently because … that is what they do!  Did I tell you that I sleep sometimes with “noni” leaves on my hips?!  I do!

I am doing everything that I think is feasible to minimize the inflammation and pain in my hips.  I am seeing an acupuncturist in Playa Chiquita every other week and I will finish ten sessions soon.  I see a gentleman named “Dan Springer” originally from California (no relation to Jerry!) who does cranial massage, full body and nerve stimulation massages … as well as other types of massages for the people here.  He is known as “Dan with the magic Hands” … and he is a professional!  He’s been sharing stories and messages, treatments and extra additives … like the noni leaf … to help me in my desire to heal my hips and improve my sense of well being.  The philosophy that he and a lot of others here interested in “pura vida” and self-healing is that “everything happens for a reason” … even an illness!  Instead of running to the pharmacy, like I still do for my “diclofenac” tablets though I have reduced the dosage to one tablet of 100 mg per day, I eat an avocado toast, drink a ginger tea with tumeric and honey with a dash of pepper to aid ingestion!  Later today, I will sit with my feet in the sand at the water’s edge of Puerta Pirata Beach, absorb some rays and take a dip in the salt water of the Caribbean Sea here lapping the shores of Costa Rica’s Atlantic Coast.  Some friends I have met, a young same sex couple, are running the Puerta Pirata Deli and they plan to heighten the interest in this “landmark” location just steps from the shore by adding more vegan foods as well as continue their intense array of teas, smoothies and sandwiches!  Kudos Jen and Alek!  People here seek options … I like that!  One guy from Italy that I met named “Fausto” use to be a life guard back home but is running an incredible vegan restaurant called “Come en mi Casa” (Eat in my house!) here in Puerto Viejo.  There are so many “sodas”, which is a word for the multiplicity of “home cooked” meal restaurants specializing in the beans and rice favorite here usually coupled with anything you want from sauteed veggies to fried fish or chicken.  There is something for everybody.

Well, sometimes, especially when I am sitting on the beach in this Caribbean sun, I feel like I am marinading … for real!  I  have been revisiting my outline for the next manuscript and keeping in mind what a good friend, Vee Fusilier, suggested I use with images of “cooking”!  So, as you like it, prepare to marinade yourselves for the weekend, Baby!  I know I am!  Pura Vida!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Think of Something Else … Like The Children!

 

Happy Friday, All!

I just want to say that I still must give it up to my Creator … T.G.I.F!

I must comment that as I look at many of my friends and former co-workers posts on days like Thursday afternoons and Fridays, I see what I use to feel … “Get Me Out of Here Already!!”  Trust me, and I am not rubbing it in, I don’t miss NONE of that stuff!  I am so tired of the “rush!rush!”-syndrome that I actually can enjoy myself and relax nowadays.  Those of you who know me also know that I am not selfish and “neverendingly” grateful!  THAT’S how I roll, too!  Sometimes, I am like my father, Big Ike was.  I knew that he loved me … as best he could …. but he seldom if ever … said it …  So, I being his son, took a lesson to MY life and ALWAYS try to let folks know how much I appreciate them.  There … I said it!

A few days ago, there was a “National Day of School Walk-Outs” at approximately 10:00am, I read, and the students from all over the country “staged” this event to let “us” know how much their lives mean to THEM … if not to us!!  Yeah, y’all, this touches me to the freakin’ bone because I have never felt so cared for by “people” who were actually my students at White Plains High School when I taught there for ten years!  Yes, many of them knew of my personal problems as well as family issues, not to mention the never ending politics of a public school district like White Plains, NY.  And they still cared for me while others only sought to judge me.  Now don’t get me wrong, they did an exceptional job with busing youth from “The Projects” to better equipped schools in the more “suburban” parts of the City of White Plains.  There was no need to FORCE integration into the minds of the politicians and city officials of White Plains … and the youth … as witnessed by a “riot” at White Plains High School … had to come to grips with the FACT that we co-existed in the City of White Plains, Westchester County, New York!  There was a huge all day “fight” in the hallways of the High School shortly after integration had come full circle.  There were elements in both the “minority” community and the “Silver Lake” community inhabited by “whites only” with a few chocolate chips in the cookie whom I remember well.  They were “brothers and sisters” who were either light-skinned enough or conversed on a certain level … and were able to “fit in” okay in the parts of Silver Lake where they resided.  The real work was yet to come, and I applaud the youth in the City of White Plains for having come full circle while much of the nation’s cities school populations are still “segregated” philosophically!  The students that I had the pleasure of teaching at the High School demonstrated a willingness and the ability to “co-exist” and exchange cultural traits like parties and outings held by various groups of students that reflected the population of the City.  They played team sports together and became a powerhouse in Westchester County for many years, and I even coached some of them though I was a social studies teacher.  Rather recently, one young man who is now a “minister” as well as his wife … try not to judge them … and was a former student/athlete when I taught at the High School, told me something very special when I was literally suffering through some troubling personal issues … He said, “JC, Man … you have no idea how many ‘children’ who love you out here!  I for one … am ONLY one!”  My heart twittered and tears found their way to the corners of both eyes … mind you … I wasn’t crying, I says (in my “Popeye the Sailorman voice)!  Hey, trust me on this one too … It touched me to the core … and I carry those words from Minister Grady Fuller, Jr. in my heart each day!!

The school shooting in Parkland, FL on February 14th, 2018 could have been aborted … like so many others.  People in “America” only want to “step aside”, drop the ball because of low pay or lack of interest in their work and then look to “make excuses” while innocent lives are being taken away from loving communities, families and the rest due to their inability to “love”!  Yep, I said that, too! L.O.V.E. is the value that we are missing today in our leadership.  I remember when #45 was running for office, it seemed like “the cap of sensibility” had been removed from campaigning and folks were criticizing MY emphasis on love and yoga and spirituality in these pieces and in my posts on “social media”.  I stood strong then with my commitment to “Stopping the Violence” and sharing the LOVE and I stand even stronger now.  Our children – worldwide – are disappointed in our manner of “governing”.  Much of our upper level leadership is failing the people of the planet …  DON’T stand by idly and let this “-ish” happen.  Do what you can to create healthy positive CHANGE today!

Have a great weekend.  I love youse … don’t judge me!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

“And Away We Go!!!” (Again!!)

 

It’s just another Hump Day … or is it?!?  Either way, we’ve got to get over “da hump”!  When I worked as a disc jockey on Princeton’s WPRB FM radio station during my college years, I would always remind folks that “Life is a weekend!  It starts Wednesday night during my TRIAD segment on the radio and ends NEXT Wednesday morning!!  WPRB, 103.3 FM … in New Jersey!”  A little extra incentive to get out and enjoy the weekend was what I was offering.

Yes, I am still here in Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica … rolling up my spiritual sleeves and getting ready to make another go at this thing called “life”!  Nowadays, I wake up with a “self massage” routine beginning with placing and rubbing a blend of oils on my hips and working around my body to my back and down each leg.  The acupuncturist, “Helen”, suggested that I do this three times a day.  I usually get two in … one in the morning when I wake up and one in the evening before going to sleep.  I often add a bit of music therapy with one of my favorite jazz musicians and composers, Keiko Matsui, or I blend in a little Peter White, guitarist extraordinaire and some “Weather Report” from my college days!  Yes, it still gets my blood flowing … and adds to the intensity of my “self massage”.  I am planning to see a “deep tissue” masseuse next week once my pension cash starts flowing again.  I still haven’t gotten the refund of $110.00 back from my Spirit Airlines generated “Readycard” … take note … ’cause after talking around a bit, I found that I am not the ONLY formerly disgruntled passenger who once traveled with Spirit!  Yet, again, thanks to a few good friends, I am getting through this “eye of the needle”!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with my manuscript that will become my third book.  It was like meeting an old girlfriend or boyfriend and not knowing what exactly to say!  So, I got out my thumb drive, edited what I had already written in the form of a preface and introduction as well as a few pages of Chapter One and saved the copies both online and on the thumb drive.  It looks “doable”, as my buddy “Petey Z” (RIP) used to say, and I am “feeling” it, if you know what I mean.  Puerto Viejo seems like the perfect environment to live and write for a few months …  or years … so far … though I don’t want to move to another place considering I am in a relatively inexpensive dwelling right now.  I am still getting notices from the International Living Community “suggesting” places in Nicaragua and Mexico for my early retirement!  I am learning to use my “Caribbean kitchen” more and upon realizing that a propane tank must be full in order for me to cook,  I even learned how to disconnect and carry the tank to get it refilled at the nearby “Old Harbor Market” … and reconnect it again!  So, I am “Cookin’ With Life”!

Did you ever wonder what the person(s) had in mind when they “created” our so-called “Western civilization” value system?  Do you think “you” or “we” could’ve done it better?!  Just remember, it’s not too late.  You, too, can change your OWN heart with the “God-child” within each of us!  I enjoy my close friends here in Puerto Viejo because we ALL believe that a change is coming … and “we” want to be a part of it.  All the evil in the minds of “stagnant” thinking people is starting to seep out.  We see some of our family members and friends embracing that “little bit of evil” that they can find and hurl at “us” … the peacemakers …every chance they get.  Instead of throwing love on one another, these stagnant thinking and acting folks would rather damage the good left in us … Peace be still …  Well, I am starting to learn to view each day as a “festival” of sorts, in which I can celebrate life in its entirety.  I gravitate towards people who have a peaceful aura around them and seek “harmony, co-existence … and peace”.  Do you think that “we” oh so intelligent creatures, some of us claim, could re-establish a society based on truly life sustaining values for any “civilization”, which is a culture that is able to last over a long period of time? (Sociology 101!)  Maybe we could live in “harmony”, embracing and accepting each other’s differences with love and understanding, peace and coexistence … What an idea!

So, I just want to thank those of you who have been supportive and encouraging whilst I am on my journey.  I hope, of course, that our paths cross again … as that is how I met each and every one of you receiving this message today!  “And … awaaay we goooo!”

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

“Slow Your Roll!”

 

Happy Friday, All!

I have to let my Creator know that I am glad it’s Friday!  “That’s how we roll!”  T.G.I.F.!

Have you ever noticed the results of “speed” on your life?!?  No … no … not the kind of speed “we” use to take at college when a term paper was due and we were … let’s say … behind?!  This type of “speed” is one that we can and should control … the pace we live at!  Imagine if you ran your car … or your favorite pet … at 100 miles per hour every time you touched it?  Do you think it would become exhausted as “we” do when we run fast for a long time?!?  Check it sometimes … check yourself!

In my travels, I have found that people are pretty much the same … when you get to the basics … wherever I go!  Yet, yesterday, I sat with two young ladies from Toronto, Canada that I had met Wednesday on my way back from San Jose checking to see why it was taking so long to return my funds for a canceled flight with Spirit Airlines that I had paid for by putting cash on this “Readycard” scam company!  (The company claims that they can keep your cash that you placed on their card to pay for a flight that was later canceled as much as 30 days later!! Wt@!?) On the way into the airport, I had met a lovely young lady from Brussels who had spent 3 or 4 months camping and backpacking through Nicaragua, and, after a time in Costa Rica, was on her way back home!  This is why I love to travel.  On the way back from the airport in San Jose after meeting with a Spirit Airlines representative to expedite the return of my funds to this darn “Readycard”, I met two charming ladies – yes, half my age – at the bus terminal.  At each stop, we chatted up a bit and I told them that they would probably enjoy their time in Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica, as I have been enjoying it, if they like the rustic life style.  They mentioned that the only problem would be if it rained the whole time … like it is this morning!  Their names are “Susan” and “Mary” … both extremely charming and proud of being Canadians!  I mentioned that I have a good friend from boarding school, Gary Hodder, Esq., who is currently practicing with his own firm in Toronto.  They were pleasantly surprised, and our short term friendship grew.

So, yesterday, as I took my usual evening walk down the “main street” here in Puerto Viejo, I heard some angelic voices calling me, “John!  John!”  I looked over to a local restaurant called “Chile Rojo” and there sat Mary and Susan, calling me and beckoning me to come over and say hello.  Mary is taller than Susan and quite attractive in her early 30’s and Susan while a bit shorter is also rather lovely as she sported her baseball style cap over her sandy blond hair.  “Hi!  How are you?” they continued.  “We’re glad we saw you again!”  I am like, “Yeahhhh!”  “Come sit down, we want to treat you to a drink!”  Susan pulled the chair out at the table where she and Mary were seated and I joined them facing the waters of Puerto Viejo, which you can hear with every wave.

Susan started in, “We want to know what you do to stay so happy all the time!?”  So, as usual on these types of travels, we started to compare the policies of our countries regarding immigration, war, gun ownership, police and crime.  As in most places, they were surprised that many Americans are satisfied sitting “home” consuming every little thing that comes out “new” and live and die in the same city … or state … many never seeing another country or meeting people of other cultures!  Thus, the development of “American ethnocentrism” … at its worst!!  We chuckled, I got a rum shot with a glass of ginger ale and some limes, we toasted and I told them my “secrets”.  We talked about family drama and agreed that every family has its own unique “drama” that drives some people away … and others closer!!  I explained that I don’t like “drama” and I prefer to get as far away from it as I possibly can … within reason … and enjoy MYSELF doing what I like, rather than figuring out what everybody else needs and trying to get it for “them” while neglecting myself.  Mary said that before she left to come to Costa Rica, her mother, who is around retirement age, suggested that she “slow down a bit and enjoy life”.  What a concept!!  I emphasized that I am attempting the same thing.  I like the slow moving environment in Puerto Viejo and I can cruise the streets at my own pace and not feel rushed to speed up and “mark time”, as many of us do “stateside”, waiting for the next “new product” to come out and then go to the stores and wait in line from sundown to sunup when they open to slurp up your cash!  From the inside, the stores look so pretty and the sales people are so nice for a few minutes, you get your consumer goods, go home and play with “them”.  What a life!!  Now, some people like that … getting the latest gadget, fumbling and playing with it until “you” learn how to use it … then wait for the next “new” product to come out!  Don’t get me wrong, I used to do it!  I had to get the latest new style Chuck Taylor “Converse” sneaker in red suede so the whole basketball team at St. Paul’s could get a glimpse … and Coach Blake would tell us we could all wear the new “red suede Converse” sneakers that happen to match our varsity uniforms for St. Paul’s School Basketball Team!  Shucks, we almost won a championship that year, my last year, with me on the foul line … making the first one, but missing the second one that would have tied the game ….

“So that’s how I do it, I have learned to put ME first!”, I said to Mary and Susan who were about to get moving again on their bicycles as they got up to pay for everything!  That’s the other thing  that I like about traveling … I have been treated to drinks or a chat, share a seat or an e-mail by more women on the road than anywhere in my life!  Yes, yes and they are usually from another country.  So just in case you want to “go with the flow”, take some time for YOURSELF … and “slow your roll”!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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