Brasilia Terminal is open-air, a chaotic place; there is a little café and tables near our entry door into Brazil. Over there are rows of ATM’s where everyone seems to getting or exchanging money. Banks of taxis and cars line the curb. If it weren’t for Kelsie we would be hopelessly confused. Abadiania is a one and one-half hour drive south and a little west of Brasilia.
Kelsie has a taxi all ready to go with Bolivar as our driver, he is the proud owner of a white and very clean, nearly new small SUV. It’s still early and quite refreshingly cool with a wonderful dry breeze; much like a Colorado summer morning but it is the start of winter here and the dry season has just begun. The traffic is heavy in Brasilia and the city seems to stretch out in all directions endlessly. There is an area of large buildings to the left and a massive traffic jam going the opposite direction from us. We are leaving the city while everyone else is going in to work. It seems to go on for miles.
The countryside is fascinating; long rolling hills with wide spaced semi-tropical vegetation. There are palm trees interspersed with odd looking deciduous trees; I see orange, papaya, avocado and lemon trees as well. I don’t know what most of them are, just that they are very different than Colorado trees. I also see some patches of what must be bamboo and other very tall grasses.
The highway is four-lanes and smooth but as soon as we approach a town that the road goes right through there is a series of massive speed bumps to slow the traffic down and they do the job very well. To not slow down would mean the end of your vehicle as you know it. Suddenly and sooner than I thought we are in Abadiania; we turn right onto a nondescript street on the north side of town. At first it looks very much like the other streets we’ve seen; there are bright colored buildings but they are run down looking with trash all over the place, but it changes quickly past a little jog into what is affectionately known as “Rodeo Drive” by the foreign visitors who populate this end of town because of the Casa de Dom Inacio. Here there are dress shops selling white clothes for wear at the Casa as well as exotic apparel for casual wear, samples hang outside advertising their goods blowing in the breeze and crystal stores selling jewelry and minerals of the region. On the left is a café featuring acai and fruit smoothies and a little further along is a pizza place that also has a laundry in the back. Here are the many pousadas (guest houses) that accommodate the thousands of people who come to Abadiania to see John of God. So this street is really much more than just another street in Brazil.
A very short way further along the street and there is San Miguel Pousada, the guesthouse where we will stay for two weeks. There is iron grillwork surrounding the front porch and a locked gate that needs to be unlocked to exit as well as enter. As we enter the lobby there are several wood benches of a sort we have seen for sale along the highway. They are dark and heavy, the ends consist of the crotch of a tree sawn down the middle to produce matching supports for the back and seat as well as provide the arm rests. Five to seven feet in length the seat and back boards have natural edges that are smoothed and polished. There are large amethyst crystal clusters set at intervals and last but not least are the photos and paintings of Saints and John of God. Each and every one of them is looking extremely saintly as those kinds of things have a tendency to appear.
We look down a short hallway to a beautiful lush little garden with banana and papaya trees beyond which is a dining area; the tables sport bright cloths and looking past that is a kitchen area where our food will be prepared for us. It’s still early, before 9:00am, and our rooms are not ready for us, so we sit on the front porch behind the iron grate; we wait for Kelsie to rejoin us for the short walk to the Casa two minutes further up the street. Many people walk by and nod in greeting. There are motorbikes, taxis, bicycles and horse drawn carts. I see an ancient, 1930’s, tractor hauling a trailer full of brush and construction debris; it sounds good but loud. Across the street is an empty, fenced in lot with a row of trees on the other side partly concealing a road used by very large and noisy Brazilian semi-trucks hauling what looks to be bricks.
It is still a two minute walk to the Casa, there are two more pousadas then we come to a set of blue and white iron gates on the left; they are wide open. As we step inside a blue and white world awaits discovery. The blue is color of the sky here and the clouds are pure white. The wall are painted half way up in blue, the upper is white and the tree trunks are painted white for the bottom four feet. The eaves of the buildings are painted blue, so are the drain pipes, doorways and moldings. Everything else is painted in various combinations of white and blue; the flower pots, benches, fences, and railings. I am struck by the similarity to my Twelve Step fellowship club in Conifer, Colorado. Ten years ago we painted it the exact color blue and white. After much discussion we decided on white with Fourth Edition Big Book blue as trim.
We see the Assembly Hall where John of God does his visible surgeries in front of a large crowd. Kelsie tells us that beyond this room are the “Current” rooms where people sit in silent meditation like some kind of huge group conscience to support John of God while he is in trance incorporating the healing Entities of Light. It’s all empty now but on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday it will be crowded with people of all types and nationalities seeking his help.
We walk around the building on our left to find a row of stone tables and kitchen where the blessed soup that is part of the healing process is prepared and served on “Casa” days, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. A short way across the garden on our left is the “Crystal beds” rooms looking like a small motel. All three of us are scheduled for forty minute sessions. In the crystal bed room is an odd looking machine on a rolling stand and extending over the narrow bed, an attendant comes in and adjusts the seven arms, each with a crystal the pointing down, to correspond with seven chakras of the human body, and she places a narrow strip of cloth over my eyes and turns on the machine. I peek out and see that the light that comes out of the crystals is pulsating different colors one at a time. There may be a pattern to the blinking but since I am supposed to have my eyes covered and closed, it is impossible to observe the lights for any length of time. There is lovely meditation music and it’s easy to drift in and out of consciousness for forty minutes.
We stop at the little refreshment store run by the Casa for a fresh coconut. The counterman removes a coconut from a cooler, punches a hole in it, places a straw in the hole and hands us each one. They will not stand up on their own so it is a real trick to hold on to it and get out the money to pay for it. Fresh coconut milk is slightly sweet and light; very enjoyable and energizing. Then on to the Casa gift store where we buy four liters of blessed water, the first of many. It will become our drink of choice for the next two weeks. The water is part of the protocol for healing and is blessed by the saints and doctors that come through John of God.
Most of the walls in the Casa and on pedestals in the garden are paintings and busts of saints, again looking saintly, Brazilian style, and very Catholic. We wonder: What the hell are we doing here? We have always avoided this type of religious display. They are everywhere we look, but then—what did we expect? This is Brazil, after all, a very Catholic country; the new Pope is from Brazil. There is however a very definite undercurrent of Spiritism among the Brazilian people which continues despite the fact that the Church doesn’t totally approve of contacting the spirits. Spiritism believes that we can commune with benign entities and that healing can be accomplished in this way. If it wasn’t for the Twelve Steps to Recovery, we would not be open to any of this and, of course, a death sentence from the western medical community puts much more than a bit of desperation on the whole situation.
We walk through the gardens to the sunset viewing pavilion with simple benches to sit on—behind us are at least twenty-five of the benches we saw in the entry hall of our pousada scattered around the garden. A beautiful sunset, gold and orange over the rolling hills, no town in sight, only a couple of enclaves in the distance that I imagine to be great houses. There is a puff of smoke out there. A small fire perhaps? The smoke smells like incense as it drifts toward us on the breeze. Kelsie tells us that the blessed waterfall is below us about a half mile away down in the narrow valley.
We walk back to the pousada for dinner prepared by the “loverly ladies of the kitchen”. Rice and beans, a heavy beef stew, roasted chicken, steamed vegetables, fresh salad fixin’s, and fruit, locally grown, pineapples, papaya, grapes and tiny bananas that came off the tree in the garden, all extremely tasty and sweet. There is a cake or pudding at each meal for dessert. It’s nice to not have to be concerned about where to eat every day.
We say goodnight to Kelsie and climb the stairs to our rooms; I say rooms because we have two separate rooms. We will stay in one room tonight and tomorrow night but the other one is reserved for when Bill has spiritual surgery and needs to stay in bed for twenty-four hours, just as if he had physical surgery. This plan will leave me free to come and go without disturbing him and also when I have surgery, I will have a private room to recover in.
Our rooms have high ceilings with a fan and dark beams. Painted light yellow, the wood doors and moldings are dark. There is a painting of a saint above the bathroom door; he has a tear in his eye and is looking heavenward. I’m thinking that he can smell the terrible odor coming from the drain in the shower; I have a tear as well. (I have been told since that he is Dom Inacio and the tear symbolizes his compassion for the suffering of mankind). There are two narrow beds, firm mattresses, no springs, just slats, and very simple bedding. In fact, everything, including the towels, look like they have been purchased at a garage sale. A round table, wicker chairs, and a small table between the beds complete the furnishings. We are not in Kansas anymore; this is definitely not a Holiday Inn.
The bathroom, ah, the bathroom is interesting. The first thing I notice is there is only one faucet each in the shower and over the sink. What, no hot water? Well, OK, I could live with that—and I do have a cold shower the next morning. OK I lived, so it’s not too bad. I also notice that there no provisions for any kind of heating the room or the bathroom. The toilet is standard but there is a hose and spray attachment on the wall next to it. I wonder, a Brazilian bidet, perhaps? The shower head is large and saucer shaped and way too high on the wall. There is sign over the toilet that requests us not to flush used tissue. And last but not least is that the floor in the bathroom is all one level, shower included; there is a small towel on the floor marking the entry to the shower.
A strange and unfamiliar night—Bill got tangled in the sheets of his bed; the fitted sheet would not stay put, we couldn’t find the lights or switch for the fan, the drain in the shower belched some more horrible odor and then the cold shower. This is the great adventure, I remind myself for the hundredth time—we will live…I pray.
Kelsie meets us for breakfast and imparts some secrets. First in Brazil, you only get hot water when you need it, hence the strange looking showerhead, way too high on the wall. It heats the water only as you use it. But don’t turn the handle on all the way! That floods it with cold water and overwhelms it, just turn it ever so gently, just a little, and you get hot water. It truly does feel like a warm rain shower. The used tissue—well that goes into a small covered can beside the toilet. And, yes, that is a Brazilian bidet, standard in all private bathrooms in Brazil. Actually I wouldn’t mind having one of these at home. Oh, and the odor went away as soon as we used the shower. There is no separate vent on the toilet so guess what happens, an occasional belch. I purchased some air freshener as soon as I got the chance just in case it happened again. Kelsie tells us that there is no need for any central or other heating in homes because this is winter (June/July/August) here and the temperature really never gets much lower than 60°. It is either dry and warm (winter) or wet and warm/hot (summer). It is termed a high tropical savannah climate. She has no explanation for the floor.
So ends our first day and night in Brazil. Next we begin to prepare for our first face to face meeting with John of God.