Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting Closer to Jesus


Skimpily dressed people hanging out at the beach. Favelas where drug lords rule. Kilo buffets filled with foods of all kinds. You would think that this was a country of self-indulgent decadence. Maybe it is, but then again, maybe it isn't.

Brazil seems to have a religious streak hardwired into the population as well. For one, the long-distance buses in Brazil tend to screen Christ-related movies, while Buses in Peru and Argentina tend to screen popular Hollywood movies.

Two of the movies we got to watch in Brazil were 'Fireproof' and 'The Passion of Christ'. The first was a touching story of how the power of Christ helped heal a broken marriage. It was so good that both the wife and I found tears in our eyes by the end of the movie; and I just had to get a copy for my parents - I think they will like it too! The latter was the controversial movie directed by Mel Gibson, which graphically depicted the pain and agony Christ went through before He finally died for our sins.

Which, of course, brings me to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue atop the Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro. The statue was last seen by most Singaporeans in the movie 2012 being swamped by a tidal wave, but we're glad to report that this New Wonder of the World is still safe and sound.

Despite standing in a high, prominent spot in Rio de Janeiro, it is pretty difficult to snap a nice, good shot of the statue. For one, it was on top a mountain, so distance played a part. Then, you would also have to take into account the often misty/cloudy weather that seems part and parcel of Rio. Our path to Jesus was therefore full of little steps as we made our way closer and closer to Him.

Our first glimpse of him was when we wanted to go cycling along Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. Because we were told that there was a helipad around the lake where we could get a helicopter ride to fly round the statue. But, one look at the gloomy, low-lying clouds and we decided that that wasn't the day. Besides, you know how lying is a sin... it was just not an auspicious day!

Our very, very first look at Christ the Redeemer

There was a bit of sun a couple of days later, and we DID cycle round the lagoon and make it to the helipad. Unfortunately, the prices were quite a bit higher than our hosts at Rio Dolphin had presumed. We had expected a short flight for about 70 Reals, but the cheapest flight turned out to cost 150 Reals. And it did not take off from this particular helipad, but the one nearer to Sugar Loaf Mountain, which would take too long for us to get to (by which time the clouds would swamp the mountain again).

The next level up was 230 Reals, but did not include flying past Christ the Redeemer. Moreover, no others were taking that particular route, and I needed 4 pax to make a flight.

So we were eventually forced to 'upgrade' all the way up to a flight costing 280 Reals. Or rather, I was 'upgraded'. It just did not make sense for both of us to pay almost 600 Reals for a 12 minute ride in a helicopter! So, after some debate, it was decided that I should go alone while she waited at the helipad for me. And she would just view the video footage I shot later. Alas... the restraints of budget shackles us!

As my friend Celine remarked, not many Singaporeans can say they flew past Jesus on a helicopter!

Oh, and a recommendation to those who ever intend to do a helicopter ride in Rio de Janeiro. Do whatever you can to either sit beside the pilot in front, or if you have to sit at the back, take the extreme left seat! I discovered, to my chagrin, that all the good views are on the left, and being seated on the right-back seat, I was forced to shoot my video past the bellies and hands (holding cameras) of two other guys. Gah!

From the helipad, you can only see His back

Just hoping that by the time my flight was announced, the statue would not be shrouded in clouds!

So, I had my close encounter with Christ, but the wife was still unenlightened. And frankly, my close encounter was really too, too brief, and left me wanting more. We had already decided that we would be taking a half-day city tour in Rio de Janeiro that includes a visit up the mountain to Christ the Redeemer. The only question was when. After all, it would so totally, totally suck to take a ride up to the top of the mountain, and find that we can only see half of Him, right?

The next few days turned cloudy again, and we filled our time with a visit to the favela. And another realisation hit us. With the favela on one mountain, and Christ the Redeemer on another, most residents would have a constant reminder that Christ was constantly watching over them. Serendipity or design? We can't decide!

A good view from a favela

View from another part of the same favela, just 15 minutes later. See how fast the weather turns?

With our little side trip to Buzios beckoning, we decided to just take a leap of faith, and book the tour for the next day. And wonder of wonder, miracles of miracles... the weather turned out perfect! The vertical panorama you see on the upper part of the blog's sidebar was taken during the tour, as are these other pictures below.

Welcomed with open arms

The heart design on his chest was a nice touch

We took a normal picture, because we refused to take cheesy ones like most others - with arms similarly outstretched!

I remembered flinching while watching them nail Jesus to the cross, in the Passion of Christ

Radiating benevolence

And then, the most amazing thing happened. As the wife and I were snapping pictures of Christ the Redeemer up close, we saw a circular rainbow appear right about Christ. To my eyes, it looked like the energy ball in the Dragonballz cartoons, the standard last gasp effort of Son Goku to pulverise deadly enemies. But we knew it wasn't an enery ball (duh) - it was a weather phenomenon our friend Gerald has described as an icebow (not rainbow). To us, it was just beautiful, and a very apt way of ending our path to finally find ourselves at the feet of Christ the Redeemer.

Surprisingly, none of the others in our little tour group noticed it. Only us. Are we blessed or what? :)


Zen said...

Considering that you spent almost a yr travelling without major hiccups, you guys are definitely blessed!! =)

May I be on the list to loan the copy of "Fireproof"? Sounds like a good one there... first on the wait list? =P

Caught Passion of Christ previously already!

Dannie said...

You're right. No major hiccups for us, though we are dying to get home to visit the dentist! And I think I might need to get specs too. Sigh.

I'm sure my parents will not mind you borrowing the Fireproof dvd. Or come by our place and we can arrange a screening! :)

Liming said...

I bought Fireproof too, after watching it! For a friend who was having some problems with his wife...it's still sitting in my cubicle, and they are still married...so oh well

Debra said...

That last pic is very surreal-looking indeed!

Dannie said...

Liming: Haha... just the presence of the dvd helped? :p

Debra: Yup. I rank it as the absolute best pic taken by the wife during this trip. Gave her a splitting headache though, after looking at the sun through the lens for so long!

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