Monday, December 26, 2011

God You Are Smokin’!

September and October are hurricane months, so why in the world would we have a hurricane type storm last night, we wondered. Winds were so incredible; the furniture was blown off of the balcony of our hotel. It woke us up multiple times during the night as it set off alarms all over. Sounds like thrashing rain hitting the window was our clue that it there was water with the wind, but we were too lazy to get up to check it out. We had the alarm set for 6:45 as it was.

Today was the boat trip to the different Mayan villages and it was scheduled to leave at 8:30. Breakfast at the hotel doesn’t start until 7:30, but we were fearful of not having enough time to get to the dock if we ate here. We went closer to the dock and found a lovely restaurant where we had two full breakfasts for 6 Euros total. From there, it was a hop, skip, and jump to the dock where our boat was scheduled.

Eight-thirty came and went, but our boat didn’t. Those around the dock told us, why are you worried, it is only 8:30? Okay, we run by a different clock here, like other Hispanic countries and some European ones that are far from Hispania. When the boat arrived, it was not San Marco as we had been told to look for, but Yoselin. Close enough I guess, but it did mean additional Spanish practice to verify the situation. Who should be on our boat, but the young Canadian couple who are traveling for 8 months. Wonderful couple, we were glad to share some time with them. There was also an Australian family that we chatted with also, passing the time until we were ready to depart.

After the storm last night, the lake was choppy with crests forming as far as the eye could see. The trip to the first village would be an hour of potentially seasickness motions up and down with water splashing in the sides of this boat that was on par with a van as opposed to a boat that was equal to a humvee. Rock, roll, and get wet as the waves come overboard to slap you in the face for molesting its daily habits. Ron has suggested we sit in the far back, which meant that we had to climb over four rows of seats before reaching where we would secure our butts for the joy ride. One time was fine, but each village meant climbing over these seats to get out and back in again, while boat thought tied to the dock, still heard the silent tunes that caused it to rock and roll the day away. As the waves from other boats lapped the sides of ours, as other guests were getting out, we were all tossed like a cheap salad around the inner bowl of the boat.

I would have kissed the land at the first village, but yuk-pooh! It was not only dirt, but dirty dirt. San Marcos, the village was not much to speak of, with one long, long narrow path leading to the center. Along the path were Spanish language schools, and oh, please, Reiki healing centers, a massage center, a spiritual advisor that promised to heal your soul with tarot cards, and other obvious renegades from English speaking countries that have descended in this sacred space of Mayan antiquities and have tried to transform it into Little California, Guatemala. There was pathetically little to warm the cockles of any one’s heart in this desolate little village. The star attraction seemed to be a Catholic church, the first invaders of ancient cultures. We had forty-five minutes to explore this village, but we were all back in thirty minutes wondering what was next.

Another long ride on the boat brought us to San Juan. Once off the boat, one look at this village told us the prospects were not good. Facing the dock was one steep and lengthy hill with lots of little shops on either side. Even my desire to be consumer of the year did not persuade me to tackle that hill, so we took a tuk-tuk. If you have ever been to South Africa, Thailand, or numerous other countries, you will know a tuk-tuk is similar to an enclosed golf cart.

Our driver gave us a quick tour around the village. Shop after shop after shop with more massage opportunities, Spanish schools, and healing of various forms, all á la new age and definitely imported and not native. When you look at tienda after tienda and see these eye popping colors, one of two things start to happen. 1.) You stop looking at any realizing nothing is really going to fit your color schemes at home or 2.) You develop such sensory overload that you begin to think that your living room really would look much better if you painted it day-glo pink, turquoise, lemon yellow, lichen green, and violet. Then all of these things you have subliminally been pushed into purchasing will fit right. This has made me realize that I am of two minds. One mind says, “This isn’t so bad. The colors are bright and cheerful and the workmanship is excellent.” This is when the other mind kicks shouting “Are you crazy? Have you lost control of your senses? Where on earth would you display that for more than ten minutes without having to issue apologies?” I am certain these things have their place, just not in our home.

The next two villages were San Pedro and Santiago Atitlan, which included more boat acrobatics, sail, sail, wet, wet, climb out of the boat, and see the village. Same, same, but different. The differences were only in the size of the settlements and whether or not there were hills to climb. Well, there was one other difference. We were going to see Maximón or as the Mayans call him, Rilaj Maam. Regardless of what name he happens to go by, he is the smoking god. This hybrid god is a cross of Catholic and Mayan, but is revered throughout the Guatemalan highlands. He is generally housed in the home of the Mayan cofradia, the brotherhood of Mayan religious. After paying the tuk-tuk driver 20 Q or 2 Euros, he drove us up hills, down alleys, through the hills and dale until we reached an unpaved path of rocks and stones leading to a small building.

On the porch was a band of brothers, presumably Mayan as they were not speaking Spanish. Within hear shot we could hear talking, but we were unprepared for the spectacle. In a very small room, there was tiny Christmas type lights were flashing on and off decorating the left wall with those boas of Christmas garland. Darkness prevailed in the room regardless of the spirited lighting, but as we were escorted into the room, there was a man on his knees on one of those festively decorated rugs or tablecloths that are ubiquitous. He had this back toward us and was spewing a volume of words in a casual manner, regardless of his semi-prostrated position. He was facing two humanly men, but seated between them was the god Rilaj Maam or Maximón. Rilaj was doing what Rilaj is known for; he was smoking a cigarette. On either side of him, there were two ashtrays filled with butts with different filters. It was not clear if a cigarette is given as an offering, but each of the attending men took turns flicking the ashes into the ashtray, so that god was not disturbed nor was his attention diverted from the petitioner.

God had a rather wooden expression during this whole thing. One possible conclusion could be it was because his head was carved from wood. That explained why he never grimaced when he got smoke in his eyes. God only knows what his body consisted of, but he was covered with layers of different colorful blankets and a multitude of neck garments. As I was standing there watching this scene, I on the right also had lights flashing over my head. I noticed this rectangular glass box behind me, which my peripheral vision led me to believe it could be an aquarium. When I took a closer look, there was a mummy in there. God only knows who it is, was or if it is another petrified wooden soul.  

After this, the rest of the day was lackluster to say the least. God knows…
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