Miraflores, Lima, Peru: João

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“Marijuana?” The receptionist said, lighting the herb in his piece carved from an apple, “It’s not too hard to find here. Shit, we grow the stuff here.”

“Do you know where I can get some?” I asked, taking the apple after he finished.

“It’s possible,” he said, pointing at a group of people in the courtyard, “Did you meet the French woman over there? I think she can help you.”

On the other side of the patio sat a bushy haired French woman smoking her twelfth cigarette and a couple of men from different corners of the world.

“No, I haven’t–”

“What about Ayahuasca?” João added, receiving the apple from me.

“Ayahuasca?” The receptionist asked, intrigued.

He was a journalist from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rose introduced João to Bella and me with our faces full of wine and spaghetti. He told us about his two week vacation across the Andes with plans to travel from Lima to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and La Paz, the same as our figurative itinerary. He carried himself with a gentle demeanor, kept together by an untamed beard.

João brought out his wallet and pulled out a business card with the picture of an intimidating shaman crossing his arms.

You’ve never heard of ayahuasca?” João asked, looking to me for confirmation.

“I’ve heard of it,” I said, “but I’ve only read about it.”

“What is it?” The receptionist said, reaching for João’s card.

Although he appeared timid at times, João was a tall, broad man with a bed of curly hair springing atop his scalp. As the conversations grew so did his personability. I often witnessed a journalistic shift as João interviewed each person in the party about their opinions: whether political, spiritual, or romantic.

 

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Outside the hostel, we walked in a nearby park.

“Ah, yes. I know this drug,” the receptionist said, passing back the card to João.

“Oh no. It is much more than a drug,” João added, “Ayahuasca changed my life.”

“Changed your life?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “I confronted my demons face to face, all at a retreat in the Brazilian Amazon.”

“A retreat?”

“Yes. What do you say? A resort?”

“You stayed at a drug resort?”

“Yes. And it’s much more than a drug resort. It’s rehabilitation. Some of the programs last longer, but I stayed for three days.”

“What is it like?” The receptionist asked, shredding apart more marijuana into the apple.

“Well, each session would last four to five hours, and in between the sessions you have time for reflection and meditation.”

“From what?” I asked.

João pondered leaving with us in two days to Cusco. We were on the same timetable, and I could tell we had a lot in common. He had become my vice to seek out illegal recreations. Once he told me of his travel plans I couldn’t resist suggesting he join us on our journey.

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Lima, a diverse city. Our walk started a posh park and we turned around here, an entry point for a more working class section.

“Ayahuasca is very visual,” João said, unlocking his phone to show us pictures of the retreat. “Some days, I would travel to different parts of my life, past and future. Other times, I would travel the universe and–”

“Go crazy,” The receptionist added.

“Crazy? No, no. It opens your mind. Especially for people suffering from anxiety and depression.”

“Would you do it again?” I asked.

“Of course. Look at this,” João said, showing me the business card again. “There’s a retreat in Cusco.”

I wondered how João’s lust for drugs and alcohol could be tarnished by the personalities of Bella and Rose. However, I wanted him to join us. Even if his ambitions became suppressed by the conflicting ideologies of the group, I was drawn by his perspective. I wanted to hear more.

“So you’re coming to Cusco with us?” I asked.

“It depends. I’ll check if I can buy a ticket in the morning.”

 

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