Saturday, June 02, 2007

Visiting a friend at a rehab center

Last week, when I was still in Rio, and wildly freaking out about the lack of school documents and unpacked bags, I went with Ben to visit a friend of ours who has decided to leave the streets and checked himself into a rehabilitation program. It is located in the middle of nowhere, about an hour outside of the city. Neither of us had ever been there before. We left at 11:00 am.

The directions we received were classic:

Take the train to Central
Take the train to C--
From there, turn left and get a bus. Take it to the end of the line. Start walking down the dirt road. Walk through the housing community if you want a shortcut. Ignore the first white gate. Go in the second. Walk up the hill and there you are.

No phone number. We didn't even have the name of the rehabilitation center down right. This is the kind of crazy adventure that my friends used to get upset about. Going somewhere you've never been, with bad directions, no idea where you are, no phone number, knowing no one and with no idea when you'll be back. Recipe for danger...or adventure!

We made the first train, and the second. It was a long, hideously bumpy ride with not a second of silence, with all the vendors running through trying to sell nail clippers and chocolate (the Brazilian pronunciation of "Hershys" is appalling), fake toy snakes and lots of trashy newspapers. Getting off the train, we seek out somewhere with food. It's never a good idea to let me go hungry for too long-I get nasty. Low blood sugar issues. So we eat, which in hindsight, was a great idea. (I didn't get home until almost 8 pm...) The bus is easy to find. Rural buses are funny: the bus driver takes messages to pass on to neighbors farther down the line, chats with pedestrians, and looks at us like we've escaped from the zoo. Unfortunately. there isn't an "end of the line." It's a roundtrip bus...thankfully, we asked the bus driver before it was too late, and he let us off at the right dirt road.

I felt a bit like I was in Indiana or West Virginia. The dirt roads, the hilly mountains, the silence. Hard to believe that this is also considered part of the city! Everyone knew where the rehab center was, and it was, in spite of the directions, a cinch to find.

Our friend was thrilled to see us.

I don't have a lot to say about the center. As Ben put it, the visit was enough to scare me off drugs for the rest of my life. I never want to have to go to a place that is THAT B.O.R.I.N.G. Ever.

I left feeling so sorry for him and so excited to be getting away. The place had nearly no resources. There was a television that played worship dvds and some games. I saw a checkers set with the pieces salvaged from bits of plastic and bottlecaps. There couldn't have been more than five of the original pieces. Our friend indicated there were a lot of Bibles lying around, but not much else. One of the staff members liked animals, so he had some guinea pigs and a rabbit, in addition to two huge dogs. That was it. The guys would work around the place during the day, learning how to garden or fix things, or simply to keep their hands busy. But after the work was done, there was almost nothing. I could imagine, just from the few hours we spent there, how much of an eternity two weeks or two months would feel there. It was as if the afternoon would never end...just a steady stream of staring out into the distance, wishing that there was something that would break the horrid monotony....

I'm so proud of my friend. It is really hard for him there, but he's choosing the boredom over the excitement of the street. Because he wants a future. Because he knows there is more out there. Because he wants to do the right thing for himself and for his family. And that excites me.

But I wonder about the methods they're using at that center...

How would Jesus run a rehab center?

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