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

Don’t Forget to Breathe . . .


Happy Hump Day, Yeah Baby!

This is pret’ near Christmas Week, isn’t it!?  Now, I know some who do not celebrate it … I probably won’t this year … but so be it!  Keep the reason for the season in your heart – LOVE!

Especially during the festivities, we need to keep a close watch on each other.  I was just thinking how difficult it must be to celebrate (or NOT) a traditional holy day like Christmas … without family!?  Well, if you’ve got a few friends – near or far – they are often like family!  This is my testimony today.  Oftentimes, also during these “holy days”, we scurry around so much, “runnin’ in circles”, that we forget to breathe …  I know, I know … NOT YOU, of course!  “You” always breathe.  I often said the same thing until after a few tense incidents, I actually checked “myself” … not the “other person” … but MYSELF!!  I wasn’t breathing fully.  My lungs were NOT filling up with air … It was almost like I was suffocating myself with short and rapid breaths.  My mind wasn’t functioning as clearly as when I breathe deeply …  So, I stopped (as I do regularly now) and took a deep breath …  “Ahhhh ….”, I whispered as I let the air out slowly!  Yogi practitioners know this … breathe … deep breaths … then let each one out slowly!  One can feel (at least, I can!) the clarity of thought, the ease of temperament, the depth of focus.  Don’t be runnin’ around taking short breaths, panting as if you are some rabid animal!  You are a beautiful soul and a wonderful spirit inhabiting this vessel called “the body”!

These past few days, my body has been calling for me to do some stretching at least.  The discomfort that I feel in my hips sometimes”freezes” my thought process so that I don’t want to stretch since it “hurts” a bit.  Well, these past few nights, I did “bed yoga”!!  Never heard of it?!?  Me either!!  Yet, I went into my “reclining pigeon” pose while laying on the bed and reached for each big toe on the foot of the extended leg as I stretched my upper body and head to reach upwards!  It felt good.  Now, it was sore when I first put my legs in that “4” shape and pressed the left ankle on top of my right knee … and vice versa.  So, I breathed deeply … and held the position for as long as I could.  Finally, feeling under control again, I went into the shoulder stand … yep, still on this queen-sized soft as cotton mattress … and stayed there for a few moments … like 30 seconds.  I still do a lot of walking, and, it causes my back to feel some tension and the hip muscles get all tight.  A couple of days ago, there was a young lady from the state of Washington who was in the “cabin” next to me.  We got to chatting, she explained that she was a trained sports massage therapist … and gave my hips a once over!!  They feel much better since then, but I have to keep them moving since due to the degenerative nature of the arthritis, my range of motion in the hips decreases.  I recall, being the last of the children born in our family, that I had a calcium deficiency when I was born … my bones didn’t get hard as they should have in an infant.  I took calcium tablets administered by “Mother Mary” for the first few years of my infancy!  I have been speculating that this, too, might be a cause of the “degenerative osteoarthritis” that the orthopedic surgeon says I have!  I have a good friend from college, Doc Hepler out of PA, who suggested that I take caution before getting a replacement(s).  Then there is this chiropractor from Ft. Lauderdale that I used to meet up with at LA Fitness to chat about “hip replacements”, and he swears by them!  What to do … when the time comes?!  Meanwhile, I stretch and breathe … deeply.

At this time I wanted to give a shout out to a couple of special people who got me terribly interested in yoga and “knowing myself” as well as my body!  Lydia Richardson was one of, if not, my first pilates yoga teacher!  We worked out in Pembroke Pines, FL at the “24 Hour Fitness Shaq”.  Lydia is now an “Orange Theory” specialist, and in my opinion, is a symbol of excellence as she continues to teach spin and yoga at various locations in South Florida.  Thanks, Lydia for your leadership and guidance.  Also, a gent, Jean Marc Rousseau from France, was another yoga instructor whom I give a lot of credit for instilling “the stillness of mind” that I needed when I was an early practitioner.  He continues to teach yoga and grow his beautiful family.  Also, if you are in the area of Portugal in early May … or in Cahuita’s Playa Negra, Amber Jager from Holland of “Alma Yoga” and Christen Scott and her husband, Preston, with the “Power Yoga Tribe” out of Juno Beach, FL, respectively, are holding “retreats” that may be very well worth your time, energy and research … plus money!  Visit: https://almayoga.nl to learn more about Amber Jager’s retreat in Portugal.  As well, if interested (or if you know someone) in a retreat in Costa Rica, visit: http://www.thepoweryogatribe.com to find out more about Christen and Preston’s yoga retreat there!

“Don’t forget to breathe!”


John I. Cook, Director

So Be It!


Happy Friday, All!

I think that there are several “T.G.I.F.’s” out here today!  Well here’s mine! TGIF!!

Just yesterday, I had gotten caught up just a bit in “some stuff” … you know … like, “Wt@”!  But I do less worrying nowadays but I did have to tell myself, “What are you thinking about that for?!?”  While I always try to learn a bit more about myself, especially in my interactions with others, I do realize that we are NOT all on the same “wave length” … or “frequency”!  Some of us believe in “God” while others believe in themselves, which in my opinion is where the Creator resides … deep inside of each of us.  Yet, it does require some “priming” to get this process flowing!  “Know Thyself” and know thy limitations … for that is where your Creator comes in … should you decide to agree … which you don’t, of course!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting a young woman from Amsterdam who is a yoga instructor … with a passion, like most of those that I know, including Christen Scott, Bianca Rangone and Rocki Roland as well as “Ester” each of whom I studied under in Ft. Lauderdale and Pembroke Pines.  I was impressed with “Amber’s” energy level and desire to make her journey one of her own in a genuine sense of the word.  I enjoy meeting people with similar interests because it allows me to “rub up against” them, so to speak, so that I can “tighten up” or hone some of my own characteristics needing “re-alignment”!  In other words, I appreciate the opportunities to meet new people from other cultures and countries so I can learn more about myself, as well as them!

I am on my last weekend here in Cahuita and I haven’t found a suitable place to “live” and have not even touched the idea of “retirement residency” here.  I am sure that it is another “nut to crack”, so to speak!  I am planning on going back to San Jose for a couple of days and then, perhaps, flying to Colombia … Medellin to be exact.  I will take another few looks around here in Cahuita for an apartment or two that I was told about.  Yet, of course, like in so many other things in our lives, if it doesn’t pan out, so be it!

Have a great weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

Say Whaaaat?!


It’s another Hump Day, Y’all!

One of the things I enjoy doing in my “free time” is going through my knowledge of history and noting where things began to deviate.  I was a teacher in public schools so I had occasion to look up a few facts myself.  In fact, I had done an ISP (Independent Study Project) at St. Paul’s my senior year on “African Empires: Ghana, Mali and Songhai”.  I learned some Swahili words, one of which I chose to name my daughter, “Ayanna”.  I learned some other facts about the prevalence of education and medicine in particular in places in Africa like Egypt.  If you decide that Egypt is not in Africa then “you” are beginning to tell yourself some lies that, once perpetuated, would lead “you” to believe the “body of knowledge” we hold to be true regarding humanity and its development over a long period of time!  I was never too lazy to look up the “true facts” and I never believe what anyone says “hook, line and sinker” … just because they said it.  I look for proof and information for my SELF!

The current president of the United States is a professional at “altering facts”, mainly through his ignorance of the truth.  Yet, America is not the only place where “history” has been altered to fit the needs of the “ruling people” (notice, I didn’t say party) and the paradigm for reality that they choose to set forth!  One book I read at Princeton was “How to Lie With Statistics”.  I read this in conjunction with other books for my senior thesis which was “A Critique of Studies on The Black Family”.  There was an awful lot of information that I plowed through to get this done.  I also learned a lot about how “authors” alter facts to keep the populace brainwashed to believe what they want them to believe and maximize the population’s work output!  I have learned that some of the first educational institutions were founded by Moors … first in Africa (Timbuktu) and later in Spain at the University of Salamanca, one of the oldest “universities” in the world!  We don’t learn that in American History text books, nor Afro-Asian text books nor any other books in public school … unless you know what you are looking for and where to go to find it.  The average teacher doesn’t know either!  Did you know that the “colon” or currency of Costa Rica was named after Italian explorer “Cristobal Colon”?  Did you know that Hippocrates was NOT the founder of “medicine” and the concept of doctors?

I have met some very interesting people here in Costa Rica where the saying is “Pura Vida” and the emphasis is on the “One Love” culture concept.  I feel free … the people here are a blend of all cultures, and people come here from all over the world to experience “pura vida” – fresh (pure) life.  While they have a public school here in Cahuita and a university in San Jose, life flows according to a more natural rhythm.  There are not clocks on every wall in every restaurant or shop.  People are not pushing by each other each day to get to their next activity.  Most take a moment to say hello and/or “pura vida”.  There are darker skinned Costa Ricans in this area called “Limon”.  Yesterday, one woman asked me if I was from Puerto Viejo because I looked like a family she knows!!  Imagine that, as well as her face when I said that I am from New York!  One day, I was chatting with a woman who had authored a book while living on Witherspoon Street in Princeton in an abandoned house with the African American population circa 1976.  Her book had to do with some concepts that are now employed in the medical system to connect patients with doctors and insurance companies.  She has built a house with no walls but natural (trees) foliage serves as the sides of her house!  She is about 70-something, wears no shoes, rides a bicycle everywhere, swims in the Caribbean Sea there once a day or a few times a week … and claims that urine … yes, “pee”, clears up many of our illnesses!!  I am still not sold on soaking my hips in urine!!

In Cahuita, I usually hang around most of the day, checking my e-mails and staying up to date with “what matters to me”.  Otherwise, I take that half hour scenic bus ride to Puerto Viejo to meet up with a few people I have met there, including a few friends that I made at the hostel there in San Jose when I first arrived.  Someone is supposed to be renting an apartment here in Cahuita but I haven’t been able to meet with them yet.  I understand that it is unfurnished and may need a stove!  Not my area of expertise … so I may pass on this one!

“It’s the journey, NOT the destination!”


John I. Cook, Director

“Everything Happens for a Reason . . .”


Happy Friday, All!

So, pardon me while I T.G.I.F.!!  Ahem … Thank you!

How many times have you heard that “everything happens for a reason”?!  I am sure you might tend to agree if you are over say … 15 years of age!  It usually takes a few years before we realize that “the stuff” that we often wanted to do was better left undone!!  It is all part of the maturity process.  Sometimes, even after we have accepted the relevancy of such an anecdote, we still doubt.

I am hanging out in a quaint animal type sanctuary part of Costa Rica.  I am in Cahuita but have had the chance, as suggested by a taxi driver in San Jose who is from Limon – the region where I am staying, to visit Puerto Viejo.  Many of you probably know that there are two sides to Costa Rica – the Pacific side where many of the hard core surfers and “well of” ex-Pats visit and live, and, the Caribbean side, a little more nature-driven with sloths and all kinds of birds and other small animals!  At night, nature’s chorus helps me fall asleep as well as the fresh relatively warm air and the morning sounds of nature with every kind of bird “singing his song” that one can imagine.  There are no high rise hotels on the beach nor lavish restaurants like the ones I saw in Sitges, Catalunya, Spain.  There are no museums and statues across Puerto Viejo … only one or two story restaurants and cabin-style hotels and hostels!  Yet, I find it a place of peace and solace … most people say hello when they see you while other locals are more focused on their “home peeps” rather than travelers.  There are a lot of couples traveling together, backpacks mostly and camping gear – shorts, mosquito repellent, maybe a tent and hiking boots.  The restaurants and shops have small kitchens for making a home-cooked meal of beans and rice and your choice of chicken or fish as well as your favorite healthy smoothie!  One of my favorite smoothie shops though a little expensive is “Puerta Pirata”.  The regular smoothies cost about 4 or 5 dollars while the supreme ones run about $7.00.  My favorite restaurant is called “Gueto Girls”, run by an African Costa Rican, Marie and her daughter.  I ate there yesterday, beans and rice, salad, patacones and a strawberry/”Pipa” (coconut meat)/banana smoothie … all for $7.50!  Yesterday, Marie and her daughter connected me with a woman who has a hostel that she wants to sell … I told them that I was looking for a place to rent!!

After Marie’s daughter had contacted “Joann”, she came by the restaurant and we chatted a bit inside the colorful, wall-less restaurant, with decorations of every kind from carvings of birds to paintings of ocean shore scenery common there in Puerto Viejo.  Joann took me for a ride to a part of Puerto Viejo that I hadn’t seen!  The street was bustling like a Caribbean town might with no street markings for drivers and literally hundreds of people in the street, backpacks loaded up, people seated at a quaint restaurant or a line of folks at the “jerk chicken” stand just across from the beach!  There is everything from reggae music playing to the golden oldie sounds of “Lou Rawls” or “Aretha Franklin”!  There were folks jumping in and out of the water, there were a few yoga village set ups with one woman giving a gent a beach-side massage!  All I know is that the sound of the ocean, the waves, even the wind blowing through the palm trees in this 85 degree Farenheit weather is heavenly.  We met up with a couple, a guy from France and a woman from Czech Republic, who were playing around in the water.  Turns out that they were looking for a jelly fish and other little “blow fish” to add to their huge home aquarium with a selection of orchids that “Jerome” had transplanted from some plants he had found along the side of the beach!  Shucks, Joann even took her fishing net out of the truck, got halfway into the water and caught a couple of jelly fish for Jerome and Marushka!  These folks took turns taking me by the hand to walk across the coral and rock as well as trees and leaves to get as close to the water as possible.  Some waves lapped up onto my calves a couple of times as the waters ebbed and lulled intermittently.

As Joann drove me back to the area of Puerto Viejo where I catch the bus back to Cahuita, she told me of all the complications surrounding renting/selling requirements and how there is no real system.  It is best to hire a lawyer, she said, even for citizenship issues.  I saw a couple of law offices tucked away off the main road but didn’t have a chance nor an interest in speaking with one!  The folks I hung out with also explained that the price of food is going up and there are some shortcomings to a regular “health plan” there in terms of the services you receive.  While there were some places that I could rent, they are mostly cabins with shared kitchens and I would need more time and help to figure it all out!

One more week here and I will probably head back to San Jose for a few days and look to catch a flight to Colombia … Medellin, to be exact!

Have a wonderful Friday and a better weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

“Life Is But A Dream . . .”


Happy Friday, All!

I always like to show my appreciation with a hearty T.G.I.F. …. no matter whom you choose to call your “higher power”!  Some folks do as they like while others follow “Good Orderly Direction” …. hmmm ….

Alicja wrote me back yesterday to let me know that she got the e-mail.  I mean, we met on a bus going to the same town … Puerto Viejo.  While she is staying there, I am staying just a half hour away in Cahuita, which is a little less busy.  She informed me that she appreciated being introduced to you all and “found” what she was looking for on her journey there in Puerto Viejo.  I think I will return there today to check on a few things … maybe even a power smoothie with peanut butter, chocolate, bananas and almond milk.  They have a very cool smoothie shop there with vegan stuff, including food, right there on the beach in Puerto Viejo.  I must return to the National Park here in Cahuita because after I finished lunch at the restaurant there yesterday, I started to walk but the tennis shoes I had on were NOT cooperating with my feet.  Looks like I need to wear “flip flops” there, too!

Last night, the neighbors here had a “Reggae fest” music-a-thon until like 2 or 3 in the morning!!  I had fallen asleep and then was awakened by heavy reggae beats and singing as well as an occasional scream of “Okay!” by the rapper from the states (ATL) named “Little John” which was mixed in to the reggae beats based music.  I mean, it was like a “block party” for the whole tiny “pueblo” of Cahuita!  Later, around 3am, I woke up … no music … but the rain had begun!!  Sometimes, we just have to go with the flow, but “Git ‘er done!”

I am feeling rather spiritual today.  I am in an incredibly natural environment here … no tv in my room … and I am feeling good about it all!  My arthritis still troubles me and I have my wooden cane that I purchased in Valencia, Spain to get me up and down sometimes … and help keep me from falling!!!  When was the last time you all have heard someone say that?!?  Yeah, that’s where I am at … Yet, the journey continues!

Enjoy the Full Moon, the weekend … and the first day of December!  2018, here we come!


John I. Cook, Director

%d bloggers like this: