So we are pretty much a non-drinking and definitely non-smoking kind of family.
We try to be positive role models for our girls but sometimes these things slide; especially when “guide pressured” by that oh so famous Lonely Planet.
You see we were in Santiago Atitlan, a small indigenous village on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. We had just begun backpacking and we were already tired. We were in an adventurous spot where you could kayak, horseback ride, swim, zipline, climb volcanoes and then climb more volcanoes. And we looked at each other with fatigue in our voices and said:
What else is there to do? We have Jade with us. We have to do stuff on this trip! (unlike our previous trip to Mexico where we camped out in each and every plaza and solely people watched).
So opening up the guidebook, we were informed that we must go find a man who smokes cigarettes and likes to be surrounded by alcohol. The clincher is the man is not real; he is a statue. Apparently from the little I gleamed from the somewhat eerie experience is that villagers very much believe in his powers and he is therefore well protected and guarded by the locals. So carefully cared for that he is moved each year to a new location so the privilege of his upkeep is spread around the village.
So we made the move and grabbed our 12 year-old to search for the smoking man himself, Maximon. In a hush-hush tone, the tuk tuk driver set off for the secret location.
Now one does NOT arrive empty-handed to visit Maximon. One must bring alcohol and cigarettes to appease Maximon and his security guards. Buying our cheapest options, our daughter looked at us like we had 3 heads. Guatemala was already off to a strange start.
True to his word, we arrived, obediently followed, quietly walked in, heads down and then looked kind of blankly at Maximon and his caregivers. The party had definitely started without us; leaving us hesitant and way too sober to figure out what to do next.
Shifting, trying to do that “quick English so they don’t understand” we forked over our gifts to the men who were breathing as opposed to Maximon who was smoking. Rapidly lighting a cigarette, Maximon was blessed with one of our cheap ones. Watching him smoke away, I rapidly took a photo and we hustled out of there.
I am sure it makes a lot of sense. I am sure if we had read more or asked more questions, we would have felt more comfortable.. .well maybe.
Oh and remember Jade. Say no to alcohol, say no to smoking. As your parents, we highly advise against it; unless you are visiting a statue who loves to do both in Guatemala.