In 2005, retired herbalist Dr. Sebi had reached the age of seventy-two, but I noticed the vitality of a five-year-old at his kindergarten show and tell. On one of our daily rides around the town of La Ceiba, Honduras, he suddenly behaved in the most incredible way. I watched him leap from his truck, leave it idling in traffic, and dash his limber legs to an open field to inspect a plant that caught his eye. He examined his diamond-in-the-rough in what appeared to be widespread patches of weeds. Drivers in traffic must have been familiar with his hyperactivity. No car or truck horns blew at Dr. Sebi’s sitting vehicle and passengers in waiting.
Then there was the time, when we were talking about his thin body, his vegetarianism and his physical strength, his high energies caught me off guard, once again. With deliberate speed, he dropped his kneecaps to the stone floor of his hut without a cushion except the khaki pants he wore. When he stood up with a ballet dancer’s grace and ease, I witnessed firsthand his dedication to a vegetarian’s life, and his calcium-rich sea moss and bladderwrack herbs. The senior citizen with knees as strong and hard as cement demonstrated unabashed compliance with his longstanding credo, “Herbs are for the healing of the nation.”
Most days and evenings we talked in Dr. Sebi’s large two-room round hut, a contemporary spin on a traditional African home—pale green, made of mud, and topped with a metal corrugated roof shaped like an upside down cone. It stood on the manicured mango-covered grounds of Usha Village, his healing center in Agua Caliente, a village lying at the foot of a mountain high rainforest, and about 24 miles east of La Ceiba.
His hut didn’t resemble makeshift living quarters you see in television ads for saving impoverished children around the world. But it still stood simply furnished, even with the 42-inch flat screen television on the wooden stand that faced the largest piece of furniture in the hut, his king-sized bed. An African mask and two framed pictures of African art draped the walls, the lone mask, on guard it seemed, resting right above the head of the bed.
A futon with pillows and flat wood arms offered a comfortable place to sit while I listened to Dr. Sebi—(SAY-BEE), ever wandering traveler. He set it across from his bed. And every morning after settling in it, my hosts served me the best cups of natural mint tea that I’ve ever tasted, courtesy of leaves plucked straight from bushes at Usha Village.
We talked from sunrise to sunset every day for seven days in November 2005. My sojourn to Honduras allowed Dr. Sebi and me to trek the globe together, a relationship far more substantial than our first encounter in Washington, D.C.—Beverly Oliver, author of Sojourn to Honduras Sojourn to Healing
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