Keep Steppin’!

Happy Friday, All!

I will definitely get my praise on for my Creator today … T.G.I.F.!

Things in general are going okay for me here in Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica!  Retirement, or not working for anyone, suits me well.  Yet, I will work for y’all like this any day.  That’s just because facilitating learning and writing … is what I like to do!  It’s not work for me.  Each time I think back to some jerk bosses I had on jobs who felt intimidated because I knew and spoke Spanish fluently … and I am an African American male … and how they tried to keep me away from those assignments and gave them to Spanish speakers whom I knew Spanish better than, I chuckle!  I don’t miss those folks who run those call centers in Ft. Lauderdale!

So, I am sitting here looking out my window overlooking the daycare.  Power just came back on after a brief yet strong and steady rain most of last night.  Before I went to bed, I saw a gecko running on the wall near my screen-less windows, a larger than usual beetle cruising on the wall next to my bed, and a flying palmetto bug who, when I tried to get him off of my mosquito net over my bed, flew directly at me!!!  I almost broke my wall mirror trying to get away from this big bug!!  The only one who survived my “pre-bed ritual” is the gecko!  It’ll eat whatever is hanging around pestering me!  I love nature, as undaunted as it is sometimes!

Yeah, so how many of you know the Bob Marley classic tune of “Three Little Birds”?!  Well, my windows provide an excellent perch for as many “little and big birds” that they can hold who want to greet the new stranger in their neighborhood!  I am looking at two of them right now perched on the coconut palm tree just across the road and in front of the daycare.  Yesterday as I relaxed in bed, two of them, first one then the other, hung out atop the open wooden-framed window and peeked at me through the green colored curtains.  These curtains are thin and the heavier gold ones are closer to my bed.  Me, being the Nature Boy that I am, started to say hello and ask them how they were doing … in both languages!!  Crazy, right?!!  But a HAPPY crazy, y’all!

I have learned to stay focused and “keep steppin'” in the face of drama by asking myself: “Did I come to Costa Rica for THIS?”  If I can’t honestly answer myself “YES”, I get to steppin’!  Here, everybody is an expert on everything … including YOU, if you let them!! Lol!  I’ve been told to “eat this ..” and “drink that …” and “do this …” and “do that …” by some pretty interesting people who swear by whatever they are telling me.  Cool!  Yet, my motto for Educational Excellence is “Know Thyself” and I spend most of my “free time” in retirement doing exactly that!!  Usually, and I like this, I don’t need any help at this task! Ha!!  Just the ocean, some peace and quiet, maybe even the “Jungle Garden” here at Jacaranda Hotel and Jungle Garden.  I am doing a lot of cooking in my studio and have learned to prepare this incredible “ginger juice” with natural sweetener from sugar cane and some lime!  Yesterday, a friend told me to add mint leaves …  I might try that at some point.  But, I am content with my home made “ginger juice” which takes the place of Canada Dry’s ginger ale in my fridge!  Most mornings, I work on my manuscript and occasionally tutor some friends who run a restaurant in Spanish.  They are from the States and one or two could use a little “brush off” of those cobwebs that settle in when one does not practice a second language they learned before!

Next week, I will prepare for a brief trip to the States, Florida to be exact, and finish up some steps in this application for retirement residency in Costa Rica now that I think that I can survive alone … here in the rain forest jungle!  Yes, I know, I am exaggerating a bit … but it’s a cool place.  People keep telling me that they want to come and visit!  “Pura Vida!”

Have a great weekend!


John I. Cook, Director


Happy Born Day to ME!

Happy Friday, All!

I am up  for a very special “T.G.I.F.” today … it’s my birthday!  Another opportunity to “be the best that I can be”, no competition necessary!  Just me, myself … and I! J.I. to be exact!  J.I. Cook, if you will!  Yes, I got up early for this one, y’all!

I started thinking about what to say today … about life and stuff.  I wanted to make it worth your while to read …  The theme of “compassion and coexistence” has come up since moving to my “new” flat (I am the first one to dwell in this third floor studio in Hotel Jacaranda and Jungle Garden) … over and over!  So I am on the third floor with two windows without screens that swing wide open just across from the treetops nearby!  The stairs are not an obstacle so far; they have become my daily exercise.  During my first night as I set a few things in place like my corner shrine that I “create” wherever I dwell from gifts and artifacts, seashells and post cards, coins and trinkets, I heard a noise in the corner where a bamboo rack with shelves sits.  I was “building” my meditation area on the bamboo shelves.  It is in the corner of the rooftop flat of this huge house in the rear of Jacaranda’s property run by a Canadian woman named “Vera”.  The apartment was just refinished, as it must have been a storage area for a while, and everything was in place … no holes no spaces anywhere.  But I kept hearing this sound like some small creature crawling, walking or flapping its wings or something!  I tapped the ceiling space above the bamboo rack and got a tiny response!  This morning on my birthday, as I sit here in Puerto Viejo with the rain gently falling at nearly 5am, I still don’t now what it is!  Can you say “coexistence”!?

Given the fact that there are no screens on those two big wooden windows and I am up as high as the coconut treetops, I see birds, bees, mosquitoes, beetles, flying ants, moths, flies and more!  Occasionally, one of the aforementioned will enter the studio as the curtains serving as screens and decorations often blow open with the tropical Caribbean breeze.  At first, I was alarmed.  “How dare this creature come in here while I am relaxing!”  Then I remembered, these creatures were here before this structure was built!!  I learned to let them out, coaxing them from corners and curtains until finally, I was able to scurry “it” out the window, usually unharmed!  Okay, now you can say it with me – “compassion”!

I noticed that people here have developed these incredible reflexes when a fly or mosquito has landed on them.  They don’t even look at it … they just brush it off … or pop it if it is a biting mosquito!!  I am developing similar reflexes as I now brush the biting ants off of my feet while I watch the guys play pick up basketball games every Wednesday at 3pm at the courts near “La Parada”, a cool restaurant at the main bus stop in “Puerto”.  If you want to, you can think of “community” at this point in my birthday message … ’cause that’s where I am going with this.  Imagine … if we could learn to LIVE in peace … rather than only “Rest In Peace” … and experience compassion, coexistence and community right here on Earth!  “Pura Vida!”


John I. Cook, Director

“Baby, Some Rain Must Fall!”

Happy  Friday, Mi Gente!

And a wonderful thanks to my Creator for the many many blessings!  T.G.I.F.!

Today, waking up to some steady yet cleansing rain here in Puerto Viejo has given me the title of this piece … no matter WHO you are, some rain must fall into ones life!  It comes from a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of the same title.  There have been hundreds of songs penned with the same theme in mind from Ella Fitzgerald to Eddie Fontaine.  That’s because it highlights a very common human condition – challenges!  It’s all in how you look at it.  It could easily become an “opportunity for growth”.  Who wants that nowadays!  All “we” want is more money … so “we” can buy more things for ourselves!  Who needs stuff like “growth” and “character” anyway.  “Man, this is a dog eat dog world!” BEEEEP!  Wrong answer!  WE ALL NEED GROWTH AND CHARACTER!

My last message was for my Dad’s birthday AND to celebrate the “4th of July” … and of course, Mrs. Fusilier’s birthday!  I was literally sobbing at points while writing as I remembered “our” hard learned lessons and “unspoken” care for each other.  Funny, that a lot of things that my Dad wasn’t, I am!  He didn’t like to philosophize so much as he liked to tell stories.  I got that from him!  Yet, he was never  one to say “I love you” to anyone.  Shucks, I don’t think I ever heard him say that to my mother.  Still, it was clear that he loved not only her … but “the ground she walked on”!  He was a protector while I am more of an “educator”.  I like to give examples, perhaps, of how I handled a situation for a person rather than try to protect someone.  Yet, I will do that, too … if necessary.

The challenge I recently had was after living six months in a cabin here on the property of an eccentric “bohemian” artist woman from Italy.  She has been living in Puerto Viejo for some 20 plus years!  They say that her father is or was a wealthy shoe maker in Italy who always bailed her out of her many many follies here, which they tell me have all been with local men … of color!!  The rumor is that she has a “love/hate” relationship with “black” men and some of these indications can be seen in her paintings … One in particular (I haven’t seen it) is of a black man having sex in multiple positions with multiple women …  So, her last “boyfriend” who she used to call “marido” (husband/spouse) was 30 years younger than her and was handsome and had a charm for all the tourist WOMEN who come here.  She was very possessive, and one day, as she saw him talking to another woman, she grabbed him and beat him mercilessly until … he struck back!!  He was arrested and served 3 months in jail.  Here, no matter what, a man cannot touch a woman.  I heard that my former landlady had been dragged into the street from her house by the mother of a young woman that her “marido” had been seeing and whom she (landlady) had struck in her rage separating the  two in one of her fits, and beat her mercilessly for the entire public to see!

Rain did fall, I got out, dried off … and moved on!

Have a great weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

Celebrate YOUR Independence!

Happy Hump Day, Happy 4th of July, Happy Birthday “Big Ike” (RIP) …

And a Happy Birthday to my friend in the DC area’s mother, Mrs. Fusilier!  I often remember her birthday because it is the same as my father’s birthday.  Yes, I know that it is America’s Birthday, too, in a sense.  Yet, I try not to be a hypocrite and try to be a man of my word as they match my actions … so people know where I am coming from.  So, with a national leader that tells a congresswoman … of color … African American, in particular, that she’d better “be careful” with what she says in terms of rallying support AGAINST him, I am not feeling so patriotic!  While I can fathom “America’s Independence”, I don’t support anyone that makes any statements threatening … call it what you will … freedom of speech and stuff.  I am a New Yorker … born and raised there.  I am an African American of indigenous and African heritage, if you will, and I don’t support the direction of this country with current leadership.  So … teeth clenched and glad that I am in Costa Rica right now … Happy 4th of July!! You may remember my last message … The attorneys I hired sent me an e-mail … they had a “pre-trial hearing” for my ticket for “walking in the street while a sidewalk is available” and we are now awaiting a trial date.  These attorneys in Ft. Lauderdale, “Unger and Kowitz” have had my back for the past 15 years!  I don’t have to appear in court … and they ALWAYS WIN!

I am waking up in a new “flat” so to speak, more apartment style than my previous “jungle abode” with the Caribbean kitchen … and a rather eccentric “land lady”.  I am in Jacaranda Hotel and Jungle Garden on the third floor … that’s right … if anybody asks tell them … “Go all the way UP!” Lolz!!  After having to pay the electric bill for myself to avoid interruption of service AFTER having given the land lady close to $400 three days before, I asked her to give me the account number and let me pay my own electric bill, as most other people here who rent do for their tenants.  She gave me some “cock and bull” story about her house in San Jose … became enraged when I clearly rejected her “story” for not paying the bill last month … and threw my July rent money back at me and walked away …  We ALL have issues … but that is one that I ain’t dealing with out here!  I moved immediately.  I stayed at another Italian friend’s location with cabinas and apartments until yesterday when I moved here to Jacaranda.  It is nice, they are very attentive … AND professional.  $400 per month and everything is included!  Cleaning service once a week and kitchen supplies for my twin hot plate kitchen.  Can you say, “Still a single guy?!?”  I am cool with it all … I am enjoying the journey.

Now, the main reason for this message is to wish my father a Happy Heavenly Birthday!  Whenever I am walking up some stairs to Casa Ama where we had a Sunday “sat sang” service or whether I am walking up the stairs to OM Yoga Studio on Cashew Hill, I remember my father and our walks around the Grant House in White Plains, NY just steps from the hospital where he did NOT want to die …  His legs crunched … much like mine do now … but he kept moving as we took strolls around the block since he couldn’t balance himself at 80 years of age.  HE showed me how to keep moving forward when it hurt …  HE taught me to stand up and be a man … ALWAYS!  HE told me NOT to try to argue and fuss with everyone … because some people aren’t willing to hear you!  He taught me to walk away from a problem rather than escalate it … I never said it when you were alive … I LOVE YOU, MAN …


John I. Cook, Director

Don’t Be Frightened In To Submission: CHANGE!


Yes, yes!  Another Friday … so … uhhh … T.G.I.F.!

I know, I know … I stayed up last night reading about the shooting at a newspaper office in Maryland yesterday … peace be still …  So many folks are saying, “When will it end?!?”  Obviously just our saying that doesn’t do “diddly” squat!!!  We have to DO something!!  It is called “change”!  Some of you may ask, “How? And to what?”  And until you “understand” how and to what, one will be in submission of a broken system that uses your fear to power it!  Now, I am not trying to be crass, but some folks just WANT to be crazy … or at least act it … because they KNOW it frightens “you”!  Hey, y’all … don’t get in my face with that “-ish” … I will redirect your efforts!!!  Now the thing with you “folks” who are charmed with “adult bullies and liars” is that you have no (low) self esteem.  “You” have given your self esteem to the “bully and liar” in hopes that “it” gives you what you want!  Did you get it yet?!?  I know, and you won’t!!  That’s the nature of a “liar and a bully”!  That’s what they “do”!

Some of you reading may remember me writing about the 4th of July last year on Ft. Lauderdale Beach where I had lived over the past 20 plus years.  There were barriers ON the sidewalks of the beach so people had to walk to an intersection to cross and traffic was moving slowly already so the City of Ft. Lauderdale put those barriers up for safety reasons …  The city bus was permitted to drop passengers off at a location of “their” choice, but NOT at the intersection, again for safety and smooth traffic flow on the heavily populated beach as celebrants hung out ALL day and waited for the firework displays on the beach at night!  I was one of the celebrants until after getting off the bus and attempting to walk to the intersection due to the barriers placed on both sides of the street’s sidewalks … a speeding motorcycle cop rides past me and a friend from France and yelled, “Get out of the street!”.  I replied, “Where are we supposed to walk?”  The rest is a simple case of a “power hungry” public servant … imagine that! … with a gun!  I was issued a ticket after a lengthy delay while the “public servant” looked for a reason to arrest me.  He couldn’t find one, which is why he asked for my identification or license … so he could “run it” and find out everything I’ve done wrong … And if there is anything outstanding that they can bolster their business (incarceration in the States IS a business) with and satiate their feeble egos by bullying someone and ordering them around … because they have a gun, handcuffs, a badge to justify detaining you, and a bunch of “goons with guns” to back them up, they DO IT!  Are you afraid yet?!?  Nope … not me!  I believe in a power greater than any “sucka” I know, including myself, so try frightening someone else … I am NOT going to fight you … but I will TALK to you!!  Can you handle that?!  If not, let me be ….  This “character cop” couldn’t find anything on my “rap sheet” to arrest or detain me for … ON THE FOURTH OF JULY … so he wrote me a “fake ticket” for walking in the street when a sidewalk was available.  After I had filed a formal complaint with “Internal Affairs” for the “fake ticket” and the hostility of the officer who ordered me to sit on the curb where he told me NOT to walk, my driver’s license got suspended and I had to hire an attorney to fight a “fake ticket”.  The Internal Affairs sergeant replied to an e-mail I sent him a few days ago, as I had not heard anything except the notice from the State that my license had been suspended.  His response was:  “After a thorough investigation, we have concluded that Sgt. Schoen DID NOT violate any department policy.”

So, understand then … racial profiling IS a department policy as well as writing “fake tickets” to citizens in retaliation for the citizen questioning said public servant.  Am I afraid now?!  HELL NO!  I want to help CHANGE this crap shoot a.s.a.p.!  That’s why I write … you dig!  Yet, I will NOT jeopardize my freedom and dignity by living in a place that does THIS!  You may ask, “Are you angry?”  I will answer, “No, I am enlightened!  Are YOU?”

A guy from the states who lives here now shared a TED Talk with a group of us Wednesday night at Barry and Nanci Stevens monthly “pot luck” dinner for ex-pats and others living and volunteering in Puerto Viejo.  The title was something to the effect of: “How can we learn to live together”.  It introduces an alternative to the Western corrupted concept of democracy.  It is called “sortition” or representative random selection for officials in government with support from informed aides … I will do some more research to bring you the facts of what and where to look for it, if interested.  I am suggesting that we NOT bend to corruption and public disorder and that we NOT be worried by clear displays of hatred by government leaders and on down to your neighbor.  Let’s get together and CHANGE this!  It’s everybody’s planet … NOT THEIRS!  Okay, call me corny but I still think “LOVE IS THE ANSWER”!

Have a great weekend!  Don’t be afraid!


John I. Cook, Director

Where I Find Magic . . .

Happy Friday, All!

Aren’t you glad we have arrived and are on our way to a great weekend?!?  “T.G.I.F.” … will do!  Optional interpretations apply (ie. – thank goodness it’s funny!) … plenty of room in here so, come aboard!

It’s been a great week … to the point where I noticed more moments of “magic” around.  One of the first things I heard when I came to Costa Rica, in particular Cahuita first then Puerto Viejo where I am seeking residence, is that this place is “magical”.  Now, quiet as kept, I have been one of the biggest skeptics of magic … I’m just saying.  You know, all self centered and stuff … thinking that everybody came to the party to see me!!  Just kidding … graphic example, though.  Soon, I realized that there are multiple moments of this “magic” each day!  One has to tune in to it … but tune out the “noise” FIRST!  Then … and only then … you can see the magic.  Let me back up … I speak for myself!

Brief elaboration on that concept of “witnessing the magic”.  If you are so busy trying to … say … drive quickly so you are not late to work, you might miss the smile on someone’s face at an intersection who thought you looked nice today.  Or, in a moment when your life flashed before you … say in a canoe mishap and near drowning (true story!) … and you are rescued!  Don’t forget … in this case … I won’t forget … I was surrounded by “angels”, beautiful spirits of love inside human bodies … that wanted me to live!  Same thing when I had my motorcycle accident … some “things” (angels, perhaps) carried me from my speeding motorcycle to the asphalt after I was ejected when my front wheel hit the curb of the exit ramp.  No human was there … nothing broken … me … not dead …  Do I believe in magic?!?  You bet!

So, I finally found out the type of “background check” I need.  After calling the American Consulate, speaking with operators who knew more than the consulate counselors in one situation, and sending e-mails, I will need to travel stateside again and get prints taken and sent to the FBI’s Identity Unit in Virginia …. just to make sure that I am not one of “America’s Most Wanted”!  I can do that … I need to check my mailbox in Ft. Lauderdale anyway and my birthday is Friday the 13th of July!  I think I’ll make a two or three day trip of it.  Still checking for affordable flights.  It’s kind of a simple magic, if you will.  I have met some nice people here, including my new students from the Bri Bri tribe here in Puerto Viejo.  One couple’s little boy, Angel Gabriel, celebrated a birthday at Nanci and Barry Stevens’ home at “El Puente/The Bridge”.  He was so cute … he turned 5 … and he didn’t even know it was his birthday until the presents started appearing from Nanci and Barry’s home!  There were two balls, a couple of toys … Finally, he looked at everyone with the biggest brightest smile and said, “Hoy son mis cumpleanos!”  Do you believe in magic?!?

Okay, so in closing, I want to mention that I am meandering along a writing routine and tackling this next manuscript.  This past week, a former co-worker from a tough time in my life, and current friend who has overcome some tremendous odds as a single parent of autistic children, Tia Frosland, posted something on my Facebook page.  It read: “Tmee (I used to call her T-me because her name was Tia …) I saw your book, “Three Strikes, You’re Out!” at the library in Coral Springs (FL)” … “I remember you were talking about publishing it.”  I did publish it several years ago after the first “Cook Book” and hoped but never believed it would get to a library bookshelf!!  This … is magic … and I helped!


John I. Cook, Director

Plan Something . . .


Yes indeedy … it’s Friday again, y’all!  T.G.I.F.!

Shake off the unnecessary “elements” and let your hair down … (if you’ve any!)  T.G.I.F.!

It’s been a very decent week for me all things included.  I found that after I swim, which I have modified by moving my hips as little as possible, I am sore for three days!  I swam Wednesday … light stuff … wading near the shore mostly.  It feels good to let the waves move over and around ones body gently … up and down … side to side.  And the water is so comfortably warm with cool spots the further from the shore you go and the deeper the water.  I gave myself the acupuncturist style self massage (hard to reach my feet … forget my back!) and carried on my usual schedule yesterday.  I had a few visits and took my leisurely walk to Puerta Pirata down by the water.

This morning, I am still a little sore … but I have a PLAN!  Do you know what those are?  Do they have to be “airtight” at first?!?  Let’s agree that practice and experience at a chosen task or skill is paramount.  We live and we learn …  I still think that much of the “educational system” needs revamping with an intense focus on “ourselves” – the human body, our surroundings (galaxy, -ies) and our relationship to ourselves and each other.  It’s going to take some genius, some patience … and some planning!  If we each start with “ourselves” and maybe a small group (like the earliest “churches”) and make a promise to “be the best that we can be” … each and every day, we may be able to “save ourselves”.  Shucks, we could call it “Plan Save Ourselves”.  Of course, we can have back up plans and alternative plans … and we can modify the initial plan as needed.  But most importantly, plan something!

There are a lot of graduation and commencement ceremonies going on “world wide” as we enter the beginning of the summer season.  This was a time of year where for me, in the past, I did graduation closing ceremonies and made speeches for programs at the Urban League of Broward County.  For the most part, I find that the concept of planning is important no matter WHAT kind of system we replace the current one with or that we use to modify our current “system”.  Here in Puerto Viejo, I have had occasion to meet many young people with plans of recycling plastics, plans of purchasing property and establishing eco-friendly “housing” including self sustenance farming (growing basic perhaps organic crops).  At this time, there are many “wild life” sanctuaries where they actually gather endangered animals (bats included) and attempt to nurse them back to health.  The goal is to release them back in to the “wild” … or what I like to call … nature!  I met one young man here who had gathered quite a following with his business plan to purchase property and build an eco-friendly environment to foster basic projects including improving trash removal and recycling.  “Veysel” came complete with a fair amount of savings to invest in his project, a drone … I was impressed, a rental car and a PLAN!  I don’t know about you, but I have developed a technique to first calm myself when a crisis arises … and then formulate a plan to counter the crisis, or at least “manage” it so it doesn’t get out of control … if possible.  I am usually able to come up with an alternative right there on the spot.  It, too, comes with experience.  I see Veysel as indicative of where we need to go and what we need to do!  Good luck!

In closing today, encourage those graduates from “wherever” to consider our world situation, identify where one might be most helpful to improve the world situation … and make some PLANS!

Enjoy your weekends!


John I. Cook, Director

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