All You Need to Know About John of God in Brazil

I first heard about John of God about 10 years ago while watching the Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah magazine editor, Susan Casey had recently travelers to Brazil and found personal healing after the passing of her father. Oprah herself traveled to the tiny village of Abadiania to interview this Miracle Man who had cured over 8 million people of life threatening illnesses, birth defects, as well as emotional and spiritual blockages.

As a journalist and spiritual person, I was eager to find out more about what was happening at the Casa Dom Inacio De Loyola.

WHO IS JOHN OF GOD?

John of God or Medium John is an ordinary Brazilian man, now in his late 70’s. He grew up very poor in rural Brazil and found out at an early age, that powerful spirits could enter his body and use it as a medium to heal people. Initially, he performed healings while he was working in the army as a tailor. Later, he opened a center where people could come for free and receiving the blessings from several spirits and other mediums.

Even though Medium John is a Christian, and believes in God, he doesn’t focus on religion. Everyone, regardless belief or religion, is welcome to the Casa. His work can be explained through a popular theory in Brazil called Spiritism, which is focusing on mediumship, where one can channel high energy beings and master spirits to guide humans and give healings through the metaphysical. Spiritism is very common belief in Brazil, as well as in India and among Native American cultures.

Though I have not had any personal experience with spirits per se, I do believe in guardian angels and the energy of the universe.

GETTING THERE

Less than two hours’ driver from Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, through rolling hills, cattle farms and country resorts, leads to Abadiania. There is a small rural town on one side of the highway where John of God resides, and a more touristy area on the other side. The “Casa area” as it’s nicknamed has one main street with a few pousadas (guesthouses), handful of restaurants, shops selling all kinds of crystals and white clothing, and a couple of massage parlors.

When I arrived in Abadiania, my guides Cecilia and Debbie were waiting for me outside Pousada Irmão Sol Irmã Lua. This was perhaps the largest and most posh pousada in town, with a garden, yoga room and lounging areas. The rooms were basic, with two small beds, a fan, and a bathroom that rarely had hot water. There was no television, air conditioner, or phone, only WiFi that functioned when it wasn’t overcast. As in the case of most businesses in Abadiania, the owners of Pousada Irmão Sol Irmã Lua had come to see John of God many decades ago, received personal healing and decided to stay and help continue his mission.

It is highly recommended that first timers and non-Portuguese speakers hire a local guide to visit the Casa, as there are rules that one must follow, and sometimes things happen too fast so important information can be missed. Also, it is very difficult to make hotel bookings on your own, as many of the pousad don’t have websites.

PREPARING FOR THE VISIT

Cecilia Zigher and Debbie Akamine had opposite personalities but worked as a team. Debbie had quit her job in top international tax firm in Sao Paulo and found love and harmony in Abadiania. She was animated, energetic and informative.

Cecilia, a native of Sweden, had traveled around the world searching for self-love and happiness, which she found when she met John of God. Cecilia was composed, thoughtful and open to sharing her own philosophies. The girls gave me a brief orientation for visiting the Casa, over a buffet dinner of Brazilian and western delicacies.

The instructions were:

  • Wear only white clothing (including underwear) so that the spirits can see your aura.
  • Write down 3 asks you want to present to John of God. These could be about your health, work, relationships, finances, or anything else that you need help with in your life.
  • Carry a small purse with some money and tissues (in case you cry). Don’t wear the purse cross body.
  • It is not allowed to take pictures of John of God.
  • Never cross your arms and legs when in the Casa grounds, as it blocks the energies from reaching you.
  • When meeting John of God, speak fast (if in Portuguese), make direct eye contact with him and hold his hand.
  • When sitting in the current room (meditation room), sit with eyes closed, arms and legs uncrossed and stay until they ask you to leave (it may be 2-3 hours).
  • Eat a big breakfast and meet at the Casa entrance at 7:30am.

Later I read Heather Cumming’s book John of God and highly recommend reading it prior to coming to the Casa. It gives you a much deeper understanding of what is exactly happening here, and how to prepare yourself to be receptive to the energies.

ARRIVING AT THE CASA

John of God sees visitors only on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8am until every person is seen.

On Wednesday morning, I walked over to the Casa, only a 10-minute walk from my hotel. There were already hundreds of people arriving by the bus loads, being dropped off in taxis, and walking over to the entrance. Everyone was wearing white and appeared calm and hopeful. I later found out that approximately 2,000 people had come to the Casa that day.

The Casa grounds were modest white ranch style building with blue accents. There was a semi-open hall where people waited, announcements and prayers were recited, and John of God would first appear. Inside were a series of basic rooms for spiritual surgeries, meditation and an infirmary. There was a beautiful garden with lots of flowers, avocado trees and benches for meditating outdoor that overlooked a beautiful valley. Besides the garden were crystal baths – individual rooms booked for 20 minute sessions that involved crystal light healing. There was also a cafeteria selling fresh juices and homemade Brazilian snacks, a soup kitchen, and a pharmacy where one could buy blessed water and passion flower herbs (if prescribed).

John of God picked this location to be the center of his spiritual practice because of its high energy. It is said that there are crystals underneath the land the valley sits on.

People often leave prayer notes at the 3 triangles at the Casa that supposedly transmitted energy. These notes are collected and taken to John of God for further blessing.

It was 8am and time to meet John of God. “Are you nervous, like you are about to see Santa Claus?” Debbie exclaimed.

To be continued…

10 Things You Must Do in Rio De Janeiro

Rio De Janeiro is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Beaches, forest and mountains give the city a picturesque backdrop that can be enjoyed from practically anywhere in the city. If you are headed to Rio for the first time for vacation, here are the top 10 places you must cross off your checklist…

1. Christ The Redeemer

The 30 metres (98 ft) tall status of Jesus Christ, stretch 28 metres (92 ft) wide overlooks the city of Rio from Corcovado mountain. Built in 1931, it has become the single most famous icon of Rio and named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

A 30-minute helicopter sightseeing tour over Rio offers some of the most spectacular views of the cities scenery and landmarks.

Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

2. Sugar Loaf Mountain

Located at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, this 396 m (1,299 ft) tall peak resembles the conical shape of a loaf of sugar. The reference originated during the 16th century sugar boom in Brazil. Take a cable car to the top to see panoramic views of the city.

Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

3. Niteroi

Drive over the 13 kilometers long bridge across Guanabara Bay that connects Rio to Niteroi. There are two reasons to go here – one is for the best views of Rio skyline and second is to see the architecture of famous Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer. You can go inside the Contemporary Art Museum and take photos from the hang gliding takeoff spot at the Niteroi Municipal City Park. Also, get a good look at the range of mountain made of granite and quart that surround Rio.

Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

Luis Darin, is an English speaking Brazil tour guide who offers private and group cultural and sightseeing tours in Rio. Luis took me to Niteroi, Tijuca Forest, Barra and a farmers market during our day long tour. Luis customized our tour and conversations to center on my interest and had a lot to share about his hometown. 

4. Tijuca Forest

Tijuca is the world’s largest urban rainforest, and easily accessible from residential and commercial areas in Rio. Many locals go to the park for a daily jog, bike, or to picnic and swim in the waterfall on the weekends. Inside the park, there is  Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain, the Cascatinha Waterfall, the Mayrink Chapel, a pagoda-style gazebo at Vista Chinesa outlook, and the giant granite picnic table called the Mesa do Imperador.

Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

5. Beaches

Most people who come to Rio, enjoy the sun and sand at Copacabana and Ipanema. While these two areas have some of the best known beaches, they are also quite crowded and touristy. There are more pristine and secluded beaches within an hour drive from Rio, where the locals prefer to hang out. Perigoso, Meio, Funda and Inferno beaches are reachable only by boat. Piranha Beach, located inside an environmentally protected area is great for surfing.

6. Hang Gliding

Extreme sporting opportunities are available in many beautiful locations these days. But hang gliding is extremely popular in the Barra side of Rio. There are certified instructors, an official ticket site, and designated jumping area. Flying over Rio offers aerial views of the beaches, mountains, rainforests and favela – stark contrasts that makes this city unique!

After a flight, gliders and guides are often found at the beach, sipping on fresh  coconut water and downloading photos and videos taken during the flight.

Photo by Beto Rotor

I went tandem hang gliding with Beto Rotor from Hang Gliding Brazil, a friendly and excited instructor with over 30 years of experience. We rode in his open air jeep up the mountain, where the glider was already laid out for us. After some instructions and security harnesses, we are up in the air in no time! We took a lot of cool shots with the 3 Go Pro cameras he attached to our glider.

7. Farmers Markets

There are about 50 farmers markets held around the city every morning. The open air markets are good places to see daily life of Cariocas as they are shopping for groceries, sample tropical fruits and vegetables and also try local street foods, such as  fried empanadas, tapioca pancakes, and sugarcane juice. Download an app that allows you to locate farmer’s markets in your area in Rio.

Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

8. Northeast Traditions Center

If you don’t have a chance to visit the north of Brazil, you can still experience its food, culture and crafts at the Luiz Gonzaga Northeast Traditions Centre, the location for São Cristovão Fair. There are 700 permanent vendors offering food from Bahia, ice creams made with local fruits, crafts of wood, linen and more, as well as exhibitions of folk singers and dancers. You can easily spend an entire day here.

9. Barra da Tijuca

Built only 30 years ago, this new urban suburb of Rio has become one of the most developed places in Brazil. People from Rio head to Barra to enjoy its white sandy beaches, backwater restaurants located around its many lakes and rivers, quiet gardens and large shopping malls selling international brands. Barra da Tijuca neighborhood is known for having homes of celebrities and soccer stars. It is also where the summer 2016 Olympics took place.

Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

10. Favela

As a contrast to Barra, Rio also has the most number of favelas (shanty towns) in South America and many tourists show interest in visiting them. I personally went with a friend to Santa Marta favela, who works there to gain an insider perspective of how people live and what facilities they lack. It is definitely interesting to experience this real side of the city that makes Rio what it is. Read about my trip to the favela in Rio…

Do you have a favorite spot in Rio? Do share in the comments section below…

The Biggest Party in The World – Photos From Rio Carnival 2017

The Carnival in Rio De Janeiro is bigger than all of the carnivals around the world put together! I couldn’t fathom the scale of this statement until I experienced it for myself this February. While Carnival parties take place for 3 weeks across neighborhoods in Brazil, the grandest event is held at Rio Sambadrome on Carnival Sunday and Monday.

Never Ending Parade

The stadium is bustling with 75,000 spectators spread out over a little less than half-a mile. The parade begins at 10pm and ends at 6am. 6 samba-schools parade each night with a total of about twenty-four thousand participants. Each samba school has 45 minutes to make it across the stadium with their floats and dancers. Each samba school has to parade with a minimum of 2,000 members and a maximum of 4,500 merry makers.

Elaborate Floats

Every samba school has at least 10 floats that tell a story and are elaborately decorated with lights, motion and dancers. Some of them are as high as 3 stories! The floats I saw had ice cream, super heroes, toys, farmer, turtle, and music themes.

Outrageous Costumes

The Brazilian women who dance samba in front of the floats are some of the most talented dancers in the country. Their scantily designed costumes are embodies with lots of feathers, as they shake their bodies to the rhythm across the stadium in high heels. Samba girls have to be in excellent shape. They diet, exercise and practice for at least two months leading up to the event.

Tickets and Logistics

There are five types of tickets available for the Samba Parade in Rio: Boxes, Dress Circle, Grandstands Seats, Back Stall Seats, and Specially Handicapped. Children under 5 do not require tickets. Tickets can be purchased in Sectors 1-11, sector 5 and 9 being the most central ones.

Sambodromo Grandstand ticket prices start are $115-400 USD. This area has uncovered stadium style seating, but offers panoramic views of the entire parade. Sambadrome Special Boxes carnival tickets costs at an average range of $600 – 2,200 which includes food, drinks and company of celebrity guests. Carnival tickets go on sale in December and the earlier you buy, the cheaper they will be.

I went to see the Access Group performance on Friday night which consisted of 7 of the best samba schools as part of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival Gold Group. The performances are pretty close to those in the Special Group that perform in the Grand Parade on Monday, and the winners are chosen to participate in next year’s Special Group. Tickets for the Access events are much cheaper. I bought my ticket in Section 5 Grandstand for $20 online. Note: tickets at travel agencies are generally much more expensive.

It is advisable to take a nap on the day of the event so you can stay up all night. The facility sells snack foods and beer, but I saw many people bring coolers full of snacks and to-go cocktail jars. It is ok to take photos and videos. Unlike other crowded places in Rio, it is actually quite safe at the Sambadrome so you can bring your expensive camera. Carry some cash for snacks and taxi back. Many roads are blocked during carnival so transportation can take longer and be a bit more expensive.

~ Photos by Amanda Villa-Lobos, a native of Rio de Janeiro and official Go Eat Give photographer.

Reminiscing about Brazil with Go Eat Give volunteer, Amanda Villa Lobos

Meet Amanda Villa Lobos, a 26 years old energetic and passionate lady currently volunteering at Go Eat Give. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with her for the last few weeks as we worked side by side on Destination Brazil. Since our initial encounter, I have been drawn to her perceptions of the world, largely because it’s very evident that she has travelled vastly. The experiences she has picked up along the way make her a wholesome individual. She tells me a little bit about Brazil and the memories she has of her beloved home country.

Amanda 2

When and where were you born?

I was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1988, and thereafter my family moved to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. Most of my time in Brazil was spent there. My parents are diplomats so I lived in many countries across the world. However, I spent a total of about 8 years in Brazil, traveling back and forth.

What is your fondest memory about Brazil?

My favorite childhood memory is climbing mango trees and snacking on juicy yellow mangoes. I enjoyed that so much. I would look forward to the weekends just so I could climb mango trees. I would be the only one climbing, and I think it’s my love for nature that prompted me to do so. Despite living in Brasilia, I was very much in touch with nature. I remember making teas with different herbs that I picked up, and making juices out of fresh fruit that I would find.

You’ve travelled vastly around the world. What do you think sets Brazil apart from other countries?

The people! Brazilian people are very hospitable. They invite you to their homes and share their personal space with ease. Sharing a meal, amidst laughter and great music, with friends and family is the order of the day. The relations amongst people are deeper and there’s a deeper sense of belonging. Everybody is welcoming and friendly.

What’s your favourite Brazilian food?

Meat tastes way better in Brazil because the livestock is grass-fed. Brazil is a huge country and every region has something special to offer. Our food is also highly influenced by different cultures from Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Asia, because we are a nation of diversity. This is evident in the huge variety of food that we have. For example, while making Feijoada, a Portuguese black bean stew, the locals would mix the beans with water/broth with some pork ribs. But the best Feijoada was made by the African slaves, because they added the ears and tails, typically parts of the pig that were thrown away, to the stew that made it a richer, thicker sauce. Today this is one of the most popular dishes in Brazil that gets friends and family together over the weekends.

Coxhinia is my favourite pastry. It’s a little piece of dough that fits perfectly in your mouth, and it’s stuffed with chicken and cheese. It’s crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. It literally melts in your mouth. Cuscuz Paulista could also easily be one of my favourite dishes. It’s made out of different flours and delicately finished in the shape of a round cake. It has tomatoes, green peas and shrimps around it, and looks like a beautiful cake.

What do you miss the most about Brazil?

I miss the beaches. If I could wake up every day in Rio, looking at the sand and beautiful water with the waves breaking, then I would be the happiest person alive. There’s nothing more healing than being close to water for me. And people who live by the ocean are so peaceful, especially in the mornings, because they pass by the ocean before work and this gives them energy and Zen to face the day.

Amanda 4

~ By Christine Okwaro, event planning and fundraising intern at Go Eat Give. Christine grew up in Nairobi, Kenya and has lived in China and Switzerland. Her personal blog is www.thetravellers.de

New Brazilian Steakhouse in Atlanta

Last night, I got a sneak preview of the new Brazilian steakhouse Chama Gaucha which opens today in Atlanta.

Located in the upscale Bulkhead neighborhood, Chama Gaucha has a large sophisticated space. Drawing inspiration from the menu’s Brazilian flavor and style, the interior is simultaneously glamorous, intimate and bold. An organic palate of tans and browns, uniquely designed fabric panels and gold textured ceilings yield an upscale yet comfortable dining experience. Outside, a multilevel patio offers fire pits and casual seating invites guests to revel in the energy of Buckhead while amidst the relaxing white awnings and flowing draperies.

Reintroducing a bygone era of Brazilian cowboys, who ended days preparing dinner around a fire pit, Chama Gaucha embraces and elevates the fireside culture and rustic culinary traditions. With locations in Houston, San Antonio and Chicago, the Buckhead restaurant is the fourth to open and the first in the Southeast.

Cordeiro

I took my friend Amanda along for the test. Amanda is a Brazil native. She is also a good cook and fair critic. It was impressive to see that most of the servers spoke fluent Portuguese and were knowledgable about what they were serving. We started off with traditional Brazilian cocktails, caprinhinas made with lime, sugar and Cacacha. They were up to the mark. Chama Gaucha’s bar also boasts a list of signature cocktails and martinis including the “green tea martini,” a blend of citrus vodka, Cointreau and chilled green tea, red and white “Chama sangria” crafted with seasonal fruit and “garden in Rio,” a blend of pineapple rum, cucumber and fresh lime juice.

A bowl of happiness arrived when my favorite Brazilian cheese bread “pão de queijo” was served at the table. The airy balls were fresh, warm and melting in my mouth. The cheese was not as sour as the one you would find in the state of Minas, but still good enough to pop in more than one rolls.

Next, we headed to the salad buffet. There were different kinds of pre-made and make your own salads, cheeses, salamis and vegetables. Since Brazil has a lot of diversity, dishes like potato salad, tabbouleh and Cesar salad are pretty common.Salad Bar

Once we were ready for our entrees, we had to flip over the card from No to Yes, and traditionally dressed Gauchos brought a variety of slow roasted meats to the table. There was costela, a richly marbled beef rib, frango e linguica, marinated chicken drumsticks and pork sausage. Amanda’s favorite was the grilled picanha, thinly sliced prime cut of sirloin, while I enjoyed the fact that there was a shrimp dish too. Traditional side including Brazilian mashed potatoes, fried bananas and fried polenta were served table-side family style to accompany the meat. We missed key Brazilian staples – feijoada (Brazilian black beans), rice and farofa (ground cassava).

Filet Mignon e Frango

Amanda has tried every Brazilian restaurant in Atlanta, and some of the best ones in the world. Her verdict was that the meat at Chama Gaucha was of excellent quality and she would definitely go back.                                                                                              

Chama Gaucha
3365 Piedmont Road, NE, Suite 1350
Atlanta, GA 30305
404.842.0011
www.chamagaucha.com 

An insider look at a favela in Rio

Today I will take you on a tour through Rio de Janeiro’s infamous favelas. A favela is basically a slum in Brazil, commonly recognizable by hundreds of illegally constructed, brightly painted dwellings on the slope of a hillside. You can spot these favela from everywhere in the city, driving through a highway, from a posh residential area, or even from the statue of Cristo Redentor. There are 950 favelas in Rio and home to 20% of the population. Continue reading “An insider look at a favela in Rio”

From the eyes of a local

My family was a Servas International (a global travel exchange organization with a mission of peace building) member ever since I was 10 years old. Back in India, we use to have people from all over the world visit and stay with us for up to a week at a time. They would bring with them stories of where they lived, what they did and showed me photographs of their lives. This was my first exposure to other cultures as I traveled vicariously through my guests. Perhaps that’s where the interest in international traveling settled within me. Continue reading “From the eyes of a local”

The best national parks in Brazil

Natural landscapes, beautiful cascades, majestic waterfalls, diverse vegetation and fauna of various species are some of the charms that tourists can find in the national parks of Brazil. Here are the best ones as claimed by Brazil Ministry of Tourism. Continue reading “The best national parks in Brazil”

Myths and facts of Rio

They say you never truly know a place till you actually go there yourself and experience it first hand. People warn you, advise you, paint a picture of a destination for you. But everyone has their own lens of looking at things so where one finds danger, another may feel safe, where one sees chaos, another may find beauty. Continue reading “Myths and facts of Rio”

Ipanema Hippie Market

Last Sunday, I was at the Ipanema Hippie Market in Rio de Janeiro. The Hippie Fair has been a tradition since 1968 and one of the must-see attractions in Rio. You will also find many locals strolling through the Praca Gal (main square in Ipanema), shopping for gifts and everyday use items at the artisanal fair. Continue reading “Ipanema Hippie Market”