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Picking up from last week. Tai Chi Teacher, Her Spouse, Their Friend, and I made our flight on the second try. We caught up with our baggage in Chicago, changed planes, and endured the long honk into São Paulo, where we took positions in the Brazilian customs line. I started to sweat great gobs of sweat, a thunder and rainstorm of sweat. We cleared customs and boarded another plane for the final hop into Brasilia.

By then I had a full-on fever, face gone white, stomach and head throbbing, and the rest of me shook and shivered. At the Brasilia airport, a van picked us up and we were on for another hour-and-a-half ride to Abadiania, a small town 80 miles southeast of Brasilia.

I’m down with the biggest, meanest, most king-hell flu of my life. Which, I hasten to say, had to be contracted in the U.S.A.

I didn’t know what to expect on this trip. I knew Tai Chi Teacher lived in Brazil, knows the local-local, and speaks fluent Portuguese. I knew first stop was Abadiania. I knew there was a spiritual healing center there and that Tai Chi Teacher and Her Spouse had visited it two or three times. That’s pretty much it.

What Abadiania is, I learned, is home to a man who sits in a room and, they say, heals people who walk in front of him. That’s the nut of it. The fellow, João de Deus, 60+, is a Brazilian medium. He (I think this is right) channels entities through him to heal the sick. Been at it 30 years or so. This is also a Catholic (or at least Christian) setup, although I doubt if it’s an authorized franchise, and being Christian is not a requirement for healing.

The place is Casa de Dom Inacio, the guy is João de Deus. The casa is a two-acre compound with four principal buildings and big parking lot. There are morning and afternoon healing sessions on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. People dressed in white — head to toe — line up as early as 6:30 a.m. outside the assembly hall. The line is by category: first-timers, second-timers, and those who had psychic surgery and are back for a checkup.

Around 9 o’clock — sometimes 10 o’clock — groups of 20 begin the walk-through. The route begins in the Assembly Room, then on to the Medium’s Current Room, where 80 adults, dressed in white, sit, eyes closed, legs uncrossed, sending you good something-or-others, then you continue into the Entities Current Room, more white-dressed folks sit and send, then you pass before João de Deus, ask him to heal whatever you want him to heal or find you a job or make your tennis game better — pretty much ask for anything. The entity, speaking through João de Deus, usually tells you to have an (invisible) operation, go to the sacred waterfall, take a crystal bath, come back in two years, or go to the farmacia and buy herbs. Then you walk through another Medium’s Current Room into the Operation Room where, if you’ve been told to have an operation, you sit, close your eyes, and be invisibly operated on. The whole deal takes three to four hours, except when it takes five to six hours. There’s another session in the afternoon.

For a writer, this place is jaw-dropping. Abadiania is not an easy place to get to. Everyone who comes has an overwhelming need for something, not just cancer or MS, but also, “I want my husband to love me,” “I want my son to come home.” The casa never closes, there are no security guards, people arrive from everywhere on Earth, many stay for a week, two weeks, some three months, a few never leave.

By the way, I have no position on the casa or fellow. There’s the usual controversy on whether he’s a fake versus, “I know he healed my lung cancer.” I have nothing to add.

The original plan was to stay here for a week. Then, womenfolk would rent a car and tour the interior; I’d set out and let things take me where they will, as in olden days.

Unhappily, I’m not well enough to leave here, which may be the most perfect payback I’ve ever experienced, but I am well enough to be here alone. So, cohorts will carry on with their trip and collect me when it’s time to return home.

In the meantime, dogs bark, roosters crow. It’s wintertime in upland Brazil, mid-80s in the day, high 50s, low 60s at night. No rain, no mosquitoes, perfect blue sky. I like the land, the dry chaparral, the mesas, the huge sky, and break-your-heart sunsets. It’s enough.

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jmr1944 Aug. 5, 2010 @ 4:35 p.m.

Torn out of the everyday, who knows what means what. It sounds refreshing to be forced -- by distance, by motion, by illness, by strangeness -- to think about new possibilities. We may come home, of course, and think: "What was that?" But I think it's a good stretch of be in a place of mystery without (as you describe) overt evil or conniving. I wait to read more when you are back home, a good skeptic once more.


monaghan Aug. 5, 2010 @ 5:32 p.m.

Gee, I'm glad I wasn't breathing Patrick's recycled air on the long plane trips to Brazil. And going all that way with a fever to visit a charlatan? I don't think so. When do we get to the sports part?


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