“I’m Taking My Talents To …”

Happy Friday, All!

“Let me clear my throat, now … ” T.G.I.F.!!

It’s Friday … it is raining “cats and dogs” out here this morning!  Actually, there are some pretty productive rainy days in my own personal history so I shan’t fret much here!  I’d like to get a chance to go into the Caribbean Sea more, but the locals promise me that this is how “winter” is …  Patience is a virtue!

Some of you may be basketball fans of the NBA and may remember when LeBron James who was playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers but couldn’t win a championship decided that he was leaving his hometown.  He said in an internationally televised segment of ESPN or something like that … “I’ve decided to take my talents to South Beach!”  Some people were alarmed while others were happy.  Some people “burned” LeBron James’s jerseys (welcome to Amerika … land of the free … home of the freaking nutcases!) while others went to purchase season tickets for the Miami HEAT Basketball Team … in the same country!  Okay … I will leave that one there for now.  Can a professional athlete decide which team he wants to play for … or is there some sort of “unwritten ownership” rule?  Everyone got upset when another NBA star, Kevin Durant, left his team of multiple years in Oklahoma to play for the “Golden State Warriors”.  There is this concept emerging where fans actually feel that they are part “owners” of a player since they purchase season tickets and buy their jerseys.  Money makes some “mofos” think they actually “own” stuff … like other people! I will say it again … “WT@”!?!  (Note:  Fans didn’t destroy the basketball arena nor the owners house – they just burnt a player’s jersey … in public … like a lynching!!)

Where am I going with this?  Am I getting all worked up again?!?  NO!  I am writing … freeing myself from ignorance and stupidity!  This whole concept of “land ownership” seems to have gotten people into a state of mind of being like a “god”!  We look at the history of the world and we can see numerous cases where mere “humans” felt (feel) that they can own and determine the destiny of a “fellow human being” … by taking the land she/he was born in claiming it for themselves and stripping the “natives” of their natural human rights. The concept has spread to the point of becoming ludicrous … enough already with this “ownership” stuff designed, in my opinion, to “make” people feel more important than others!  I mean, that’s okay … whatever floats your boat … But don’t start looking at me with that “mad look” of “I own YOU!” (I had a few bosses like that my last few years of working stateside!)  I know, I know folks … I go in “hard” sometimes on America … just like Dr. King did … charging us to live up to what our “founding fathers” (some slave owners, too!) wrote in the Declaration of Independence.  Stop the hypocrisy!!  Or should I just sit back, keep my mouth shut, make my brain dumb … my eyes blind … and me ignorant … Or … do I say something?  Society may say: If “I” give you enough money and a house away from the “poor people we created in the design of our society”, will you keep your mouth shut?!?  It’s a rhetorical question, don’t worry!

Well, I am taking my talents anywhere I want to … whether “the peanut gallery” likes it or not!  And, I am trying to suggest to my readers to “think outside the box” and claim the rights that YOUR CREATOR laid upon you!  And, if anyone for any reason tries to take those rights away from you, you too can “take your talents wherever you want”!  For no one …. NO ONE owns you … except you.  I can think freer like this in Puerto Viejo … mainly because I am retired, and can accept a less extravagant lifestyle  that is “available” in the states … for a price!  I am humble and I am a warrior … “I am the storm!”

Have a great weekend!


John I. Cook, Director


“One Day At A Time!”


Happy Hump Day … Yeah, Baby!

What’s going on in your part of the world on this part of your journey?!?  Are you aware of it?  How about … are you aware of yourself and your “part” or position in the big scheme of things?  Do you really HAVE a part?  Can you rewrite YOUR part?  I mean, this ain’t no “Hollywood Movie” … this is your life!  Sometimes after a long day of doing whatever I want to do nowadays … I sit back and briefly wonder about eternity … eternal happiness … or just happiness … The kind of thing that makes you go, “Hmmmmm ….”!

Just the other night, I was chilling in the cabin while the rain pounded the Caribbean side of Costa Rica listening to Wiz Khalifa’s “When I’m Gone!”  No! No!  Don’t worry!  I don’t have any “plans” regarding that part of “the journey”, but the contemplation session brought me “full circle” to the point where I decided I will do my BEST to enjoy every single day to the best of my ability!  Now, with that approach, I don’t put any “unnecessary” pressure on myself!  I am a strong believer in “mind over matter” and I am looking to heal myself from some of the “self inflicted” and “permitted” atrocities I experienced along the journey while participating in “society”!  You know … certain “elements” in society want me to “look at myself” in the way that is most convenient for “them”!!  Ha!  I am done with playing that part in order to “get to” retirement ’cause I am there now!

I got up early this morning after hanging out last night with an English student of mine who is also an “arts and crafts” designer, and some of her friends along “the stroll” on the main road in Puerto Viejo, close to the center of town.  The people were/(are) so interesting as I sat back and listened to their stories of how they got into making and vending “artesenias”, some of them traveling between the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica where the tourism is often very compelling enough to them to go there to sell their goods, and, the Caribbean Coast where Puerto Viejo is located!  My friend has a 4 year old son whom she takes care of “single-handedly”, brings to classes and work, carries all of his “personal items” like his tablet and colored pencils and paper while we work intensely on some of the things that will enable “Adriana” to increase her sales and take care of she and her son!  She is about 30 and is an example of the beauty and hard work ethic in some of the “Tico” women, as the people are called here.  Today, she is supposed to bring another friend to English tutoring this morning who is an arts and crafts specialist and also has a stand on “the stroll” frequented by the many many tourists here.

So, as I search for that personal balance in my life by engaging in a variety of activities, perhaps even yoga this Thursday with a third student and her boyfriend and friends, I am planning a return trip to the “States” next month to organize the required paperwork for “residency retirement” here in Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica.

Have a wonderful Hump Day and “Pura Vida”, as is the popular expression here in Puerto Viejo and Costa Rica!


John I. Cook, Director

Just Be


Happy Friday, y’all!

And if you don’t mind … I’d like to put my “four cents” in … T.G.I.F.!

It’s “The Weekend”, Baby!  All that I can tell you is that I am feeling “groovy” today … embracing memories of my buddy out of Brooklyn from St. Paul’s and Princeton … Jose St. Elmo Wiltshire … rest in peace, my brother.  We were team mates in basketball at SPS and running partners at both SPS and PU … We lost Jose in 2017 … and while I am thinking of it, I lost another childhood buddy, Robert Aurelius Hipp from “the Projects” and who also attended St. Paul’s, University of Wisconsin and went on to become one of the youngest regional managers at General Foods Corporation there in our hometown of White Plains, NY … Peace be still …

I have been settling in here in Puerto Viejo and learning to enjoy retirement … Yep, no “rat race” days that I always lose … no accidents on the way to work trying not to be late in Ft. Lauderdale traffic … no red and blue lights in the rear view mirror nor wondering what this “character” in the car behind me is going to do next!  Hmmm … Peace be still …  These past few nights, I had been sitting at the “breakfast nook” just outside the bedroom window … and I saw this small flying object … me being me … thinking it was a bat!  It flew right past my face, entered the property through the “nook” … went around back somewhere where there are lots of trees and foliage … and zoomed back past my face, onto to the street and into the night!!  I just sat still … So, this morning while I was drinking some tea and having a peach yogurt at the “nook”, this tiny thing zoomed past my face again … within inches … went into the backyard, swung a U-turn and came out and sat on a plant directly in front of me seeking its sap …  It was a humming bird!!!  We had breakfast together this morning!

I am learning to “just be”.  I don’t have to prove anything to anyone except myself … at least I am consistent with me … and I absolutely adore me … so just being is pretty cool.  There are moments when I catch myself daydreaming.  My favorite place to do that is Puerta Pirata Beach just outside of the smoothie/vegan shop located within feet of the water.  Yesterday afternoon after I had finished one of my volunteer English teaching sessions I have been asked by various locals to give them, I sat on a long tree limb just inches from the shore line and waited for the sun to toast me just enough to get into the almost “bath water” warm water.  The kids are out of school until February and the tourists are here from Canada, Europe and even Alaska.  Listening to the waves and watching the birds of various breeds flying and dipping into the water for their catch of the day has become a favorite past time!  Yet, I am sure that once I am able to complete my visa, the writing will continue!

Have a great weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

“Can You Handle It?!?”


Happy Hump Day, y’all!

“It’s another day in the international neighborhood!” … and I ain’t Mr. Roberts!  A little smile keeps me going for a little while!

As of now, I am enjoying the ambiance in Puerto Viejo as well as the “small town” nature of this Caribbean “pueblo” in Costa Rica.  I learned, educate me if I am mistaken, that the large Afro-Caribe population came to Puerto Viejo many years ago when Jamaican workers were hired to complete some construction projects there … and the Jamaican population stayed and grew.  It seems like “Bob Marley” is the figure most represented in the souvenirs in many of the shops!  Here are a lot of brothers and sisters of Jamaican descent who blended in and helped shape the actual “folkways and mores” of the people in Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica.

It is a country that I think I could live in … of course, as well as to use as a travel base … and improve my health as well as my mental and spiritual awareness.  Two days ago, I contacted an attorney to help me with the paper work for “retirement residency” here which they call “pensionado”.  It was suggested to me that I hire an attorney to complete the paper work because ones chances are better with legal counsel.  I need to organize these papers – birth certificate, pension letter, social security card and US Passport – and they all must be submitted within a six month period.  I mean, every country has its own regulations to live there and the most important one is that a retiree can take care of her/himself financially and NOT become a burden to the government.  So, I plan to travel back to the States in a month or so and get the paperwork lined up that I need.

Today, I have an appointment with an alternative medicine “healer” to see if the vibration technique can help to regenerate the fluid and cartilage that is depleted in both of my hips!  Most alternative medicine practitioners seem to suggest that something in my thought processes may be causing the lack of production of these all important “ingredients” in the hip joint and proper functioning.  Shucks, yesterday, while I was swimming at Puerta Pirata, I re-met (I had seen them before but couldn’t remember their names) some young guys who had all three done a treatment performed by a Shaman here in Puerto Viejo who burns the skin of the arm in three tiny places and then places “frog venom” … yep, something poisonous from the frog (or snake in some rituals) … on each of the burns so that the venom can act to detoxify the body! …. That’s what I said!!! Wf@!!??  Now, I have been known to be a Nature Boy of sorts, but I ain’t “feeling” this approach to healing my hips.  The guys insisted that it “might” help with clearing the “blockages” that I may have which is causing the degenerative osteoarthritis that I am currently experiencing.  After, they told me about the swelling of the face, difficulty in breathing and the fact that one will expectorate globs of toxins while experiencing these physical challenges. So, I am going to take the “low road” right now because I didn’t come here to accidentally die from ingesting some poison, frog or snake venom!!

I have been fortunate enough to gain some “new readers” who signed up to follow me and Educational Excellence’s blog!  If you are one of those who would no longer like to receive these correspondences, please send me an e-mail with the word “STOP” on it and I will get the message!

In the mean time, have a great day!


John I. Cook, Director

“Fare Thee Well, My Liege!”

Happy Friday, All!

You already know how we do it ’round here!  “Put your hands in the air … and wave them like you sure ‘nough care!”  T.G.I.F.!  We live in a world where you can think what you want to think … and our thoughts are our “control panel” for our lives!!  So think awesome thoughts … especially about yourself!

“Pick and choose your battles, boy!”, my dad “Big Ike” often told me when I had gotten in trouble at school or had some issues at work in my younger years.  “You have to learn to walk away from some folks some times … they ain’t worth the trouble!”  It took me a little while … like fifteen to twenty years and a “lock up” to figure that one out …  I told y’all before that sometimes my Dad, “Big Ike”, with his “dropped out of school in 9th grade” education, spoke in parables!!  Here was a man who pretty much “self educated” himself by “bumping up against” things in life and figuring out the proper response.  He was one of those people who always had a newspaper in his hand as he sat back in his “easy chair” in our humble living room in Apartment 5A, 135 S. Lexington Ave., White Plains, NY after a long day of work on his feet with Pinkerton Detective Agency.  I often found my way to his lap as he sometimes taught BOTH of us how to read some of the more challenging words in the hometown newspaper, “The Reporter Dispatch”.

So, here I am in Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica … waking up to a third or fourth day of rain … I lost count.  It is not cold rain, though …  The surfers are still out, and the tourists and locals are still mingling in the streets at the multiplicity of “sidewalk shops” that adorn the streets and the beach.  It is quite the historical background for the blending of “Tico” culture, Jamaican folkways and mores, tribal remnants of a very proud people who lived in peace and subsistence in harmony with nature …  What a concept, heh?!?  I mean, it’s all cool to want to “harness nature” and control the world as some of our so-called leaders claim to need to do but we MUST NOT forget the “harmony with nature” piece …   In case you haven’t noticed lately this winter yet … NATURE RULES!!

I have decided to tackle “retirement residency” here after getting this pretty cozy cabin/apartment in an prime location of town … and for ME!  Two blocks to “Taxi Central”, three blocks from the beach and some oh so scenic backgrounds … and less than 50 meters to the store on the corner and the pharmacy/clinic next to it!  Wednesday morning, I had an appointment with a “tribal doctor” of one of the local tribes called the “Bri Bri”.  Barry Stevens had given me his name and number when we first met and I gave him a call the day after New Years as I sat at a beach side restaurant enjoying my first ever Caribbean lobster with coconut and some grilled vegetables and rice.  Of course, I had two pina coladas of an intense nature on the side!  Don Candido told me to be at “his office” at 8:30am the next morning.  I got a taxi from “Taxi Central” around 9 and got to his property at 10am or so.  Okay … so I dressed in some jeans, a typical shirt from Valencia, Spain, and some comfortable blue leather loafers I got in Barcelona for a sale price of 99 Euro.  When I got out of the taxi, it was still raining, and Don Candido met us at the gate.  He led me down a path through what could ONLY be called a “rain forest” complete with rain … and MUD!!!  En route to his tribal doctor’s office, which you can see on “Youtube” when entering “Tururuwak Herbal Medicine” (Mr. Robert’s Treatment), through a menagerie of plants and trees and leaves … and chickens … I felt like I was being filmed in a documentary of sorts!  In fact, one chicken was so nosey that it just jumped into the “doctor’s tribal office” while I sat there … and gave me the once over!!!

When I got back home, I washed my shoes in water and put some baby oil on the soft “baby butt” leather …. and then made my teas which Don Candido provided me with as part of the first visit with him which cost $50 USD.  I just finished drinking one of the teas that he suggested I drink in the morning.  Herbal medicine and alternative treatments don’t rely on prescription drugs and surgeries but seek to get the patient involved in their own treatment … from a thinking standpoint and a spiritual connection with ones own body, as well as the use of plants, herbs and natural treatments.  By now, some of you may be thinking that I am a little loco!  I have always sought alternatives to “taking chemical drugs” to heal my natural body, especially since some of them have the worst side effects!!  So, I will return to visit him in a couple of weeks and call him tomorrow to let him know how the teas make me feel!

Have a wonderful weekend, stay dry and warm … and lift each other up, y’all!

To view Barry and Nancy Stevens website for “El Puente”, the correct website address is: www.elpuente-thebridge.org.  Visit it today!

Provides educational assistance, food, microloans, and training to people living near the poverty line as a step toward self sufficiency. Includes information about …



John I. Cook, Director




Pick A Starting Place . . . Any Place!


It’s Friday, Y’all!

And a traditional “T.G.I.F.” for the New Year’s Weekend upon us!!!  How are you feeling about all this “new” stuff going on?  I mean, “we” get new stuff for Christmas … be it a car, some new shoes (no socks, please!), shucks … you may have just bought a new house!  How does that make you feel?!?

Well, I am feeling pretty “chill” myself, as I sit at the multipurpose table in front of a window adorned with orange Oriental designed curtains in a two tone pink painted room … with a big bed in it.  The window looks out over the narrow two-lane street shared by autos and bicycles … a few trucks even.  Yes, this is a place I was fortunate enough to rent with a lot of help from some new friends here in Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica.  I have had to pinch myself a couple of times each day as I settled in to this Caribbean flavored town on the Atlantic side of Costa Rica and simultaneously look out into the Universe and say “Thank you!” to my Creator.  I am a hopeless romantic anyway so, I have been reading all my little tell-tale signs along the way to anticipate and fuel what I want.  While in Daytona Beach, FL before coming here last month where I stayed a month or so with a hometown friend, John Young, I picked up some Chinese fortune cookies with a meal.  In one it read: “You will receive the desires of your heart” …. I have been doing the footwork, reading my e-mails from “The International Living Community” where I read that a traveler came to Costa Rica to look around for a place to retire.  He met someone who told him that he knows someone renting a place for $350 USD a month … They went up a road to the rental location and the traveler came out with some keys to his retirement rental in Costa Rica!  The same thing just happened to me … on Christmas Day!

I have met some ex-Pats and locals who have been incredibly kind with me and only “the universe” knows how our paths happened to cross here in Puerto Viejo.  I met a guy named Barry Stevens who set up an awesome program called “El Puente” (www.elpuente-thebridge.org) that assists a couple of the tribes of indigenous people here in Puerto Viejo with necessities including educational needs, a soup kitchen and activities to enhance their subsistence in their nearby lands.  Barry is originally from Connecticut and runs “El Puente” with his wife Nancy and a few reliable volunteers whom I have also been fortunate enough to meet at Barry’s place.  There is another ex-Pat, Cleo Robertson, who has authored several books and cashed in on a huge computer program that she developed around the mid 1970’s while she lived in the Black Community in Princeton, NJ … for those who know … on Witherspoon Street! Duke’s medical school later worked with Cleo to expand her computer program.  Cleo is the person who connected me with a woman renting an apartment (cabin style) on her property … on the same street as Cleo!  I have a Caribbean kitchen which is outside of my bedroom window just around the corner from the breakfast nook that Cosima has so elegantly designed and painted!  In fact, my “place” is filled with her artwork … including a wooden sun with a mirror inside of it over a handmade and painted night stand, several paintings on the walls and a bright yellow painted bathroom sink counter and a hot water apparatus connected to the shower.  Yes, it is rustic … but it is just what I need.  I just want to heal myself, challenge this arthritis and prostate cancer, and write!  I think that I can do this best … 3 blocks from the beach with no sky-scrapers and no tangled up traffic though there is calm, patient, small town traffic … and NO ROAD RAGE!  I can walk everywhere that I NEED to go … or can take a taxi for less than $2.00 nearly anywhere in Puerto Viejo.

So, now, I have to pick my starting point … local phone, mailbox, application for retirement residency and purchase a health plan for waaaaay less than the US … which are all requirements to live here.  In Spain, I would have had to “live” with a Spanish citizen who would act as my “patron”.  Here, I found my own place and will do the aforementioned … I just have to pick a starting place … any place!

Have a safe and Happy New Year’s Eve celebration!


John I. Cook, Director

Ask For It . . .


Happy Friday, All!

I would like to keep it simple for the “holy days” and do a humble T.G.I.F.!  Kinda like a tradition around here …

Some of you may remember the last e-mail I sent out and mentioned how this season is a time to check on each other …  Well, I got one of the nicest responses from my friend, mentor, coach and confidante – Coach Maurice Blake!  I mean … how cool is that?!?  Our friendship goes way back to my years at St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH.  I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know his late wife, “Mrs. B.” as we use to call her.  Shucks some of us were lucky enough to get to know his son, commonly called “Big Mike”.  Mike could throw the football like what for me would have been like a Tom Brady throw!!  High, long and spirals …. Big Mike could put some distance on that football when throwing it!  Like I mentioned in the e-mail, good friends like Coach Blake are like family!  Thanks for replying, Sir!  Often thinking of you …

So, yeah … I am like in limbo here in Costa Rica … not a bad place to be in limbo at, methinks!  Flights are too expensive to Medellin and other points in Colombia for the holy day season, so I put a hold on that trip.  Meanwhile, back in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, where I have been spending the majority of my time and gotten to know a few ex-Pats there … one who has helped me contact a woman with an apartment for rent within her house, I am still waiting … and asking the universe … to see if this is the right thing for me.  She wants me to contact her on Christmas Day … yep … it’s gonna be “a present” either way, right?!  So, nowadays, that’s the way I look at things … I ask for it … so to speak … and wait to hear what “the universe” has to say about it!!

I am going to keep this short and sweet and wish each of you a very “happy holy day season” … be it Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas and any other “holy days” I may have omitted … and do your best to see the New Year 2018!


John I. Cook, Director

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