A Travellerspoint blog

San Pedro de Lago Atitlan

Notice that all my other entries include two or three places...San Pedro, and the people I met there, was so strange that it deserves its own entry

The first thing that really struck me about San Pedro was the town's blatant contradictions. The town, and the lake for that matter, are considered Mayan territory and are inhabited by the ancient people, but as soon as you enter the town, Jesus signs violently assault the senses. Massive signs like, "the only one who can change your life is Jesus," "Jesus is the king of San Pedro" and "Jesus, the only one worth waiting for," are all in sickening abundance. One that I thought was totally out of place in a town of such beauty was one that read, "Remember that Jesus loves you." A sign like this I feel should be reserved for a shithole of a pace in the middle of nowhere, like Siberia or Adelaide. Even a children's playground which I initially admired, was painted with biblical allusions such as a painting of Noah's arc, fit with the accompaning bible verse.

The thing I always crave the most after a long and bumby bus ride is peace and quiet, time to settle down and get to know the new surroundings. As soon as you step off the Chicken Bus colectivo (a name made up by me, since locals crowd into the minibus to a point where they are nearly sitting on your lap), young San Pedroans shout at the window forcefully "asking" you if you need accomodation. Even when you politely say no, they still follow you to wherever you are going, letting the owners of the Hostel/Hotel know that they led you there. I'm not sure how that works out, but I'm certain they would get a cut of it.

After discovering a "no vacancy" sign outside the door of a Hostel that had come highly recommended to me, this overly enthusiastic Canadian I had met in the minivan from Antigua and I checked into a "hostel" across the road. The place, Hostel Miguel, was a little bit weird, consisting of a long corridor with rooms on the right. The place was filled with kids staying with a creepy American women who I assume had adopted them. What they were all doing in Guatemala I'm not sure. The owner of the hostel, a friendly and fit Nigerian bloke, was a potent reminder of the power of globalisation. A Nigerian in Guatemala? Who wouldda funk it? I wanted to know his story, but didn't get round to asking him. Among the "freebies" the hostel offered were wifi, drinking water, and this is where it got weird; a kiddy blow up pool and an old barely functioning massage machine. There was also a terrace, where the owner said we could "smoke anything we want." The overly enthusiastic Canadian went on about how rad the terrace was, but in reality we were just chilling out around someone's private roof, kids clothes drying around us.

The second day came, and I had my eyes set on hiring a kayak and venturing across the lake to San Marcos, a tiny village filled with hippies equipped with a diving platform into the water. When I enquired about Kayaks at the tour agency, they asked me if I had experience, and forbid me from going across to San Marcos because it was windy. What soft cocks, I thought, convinced at my own invincibility and buff manliness. Clearly I forgot to stop and think that I had done shit all exercise in three months. After about five minutes, the waves started crashing into the kayak, soaking me and my belongings, even though they were inside a plastic bag. Halfway across the lake, the waves had become undefeatable, despite my rugged manly buffness. Defeated and demoralised, I headed back to town, soaked to the bone and watched Treme and read for the rest of the day. I saw the Canadian on the roof and he offered me some banana bread saying, "Ooh my gawd, they knoow how to cook eyy. This is sooohh good." Taking a bite, the thing was tasteless and supremely dry. Deciding I had had enough of this weird hostel, I made my decision to move to yo mamas the next day, availability of beds permitting.

It was a good choice...the place had a great social atmosphere and I bumped into two Kiwi couples I had met in Tulum, who had made themselves famous by attaching a fork on the end of a stick and calling it a spearknife, wondering off into the ocean and catching a huge fish they later threw on the BBQ. With my first attempt at reaching San Marcos ending in spectacular failure, I thought it wise to forget trying to get there by water and decided to hire a motobike to make the journey. I went to the closest travel agent to the hostel, there are tons in San Pedro, and hired a bike for 3 hours at about $12 an hour, which I thought was excessive. They took about twenty minutes to bring the bike around, took about ten minutes to start it, then realised that the light wasn't working, so they went to get another one. The other bike didn't have any petrol, so finally venturing off, I had to follow a Guatemalan to a station so he could fill it up. Common sense dictates that you check bikes are good to go, with sufficient petrol and functioning lights at the start of the business day, but that's just probably my narrow Western thinking. Finally I was on my way...until I was stopped at the highway, due to maintenance. The guy controlling the traffic told me that work had started five minutes earlier and would be finished in 45 minutes. Slightly pissed off, I turned around and went on a shorter one hour ride up into the mountains, stopping every so often to take self indulgent photos, once dropping the bike and burning my leg. Perhaps it was the universe telling me to stop acting like a wanker.

The following day a chillout session with a few other friends at the hostel was interrupted by a black jew by the name of Lidia Katz, an interesting gentleman who I had heard a few fascinating things about the day before. He starts shooting off at the mouth about spiritual enlightenment or some bullshit, acquiring an audience to laugh at his delusion, and being clearly too 'enlightened' to realise we were all taking the piss. All, except of course that lovely but gullible American you find in most hostels, who swollowed this dude's bullshit hole. Realising this story was too good to not document, I ran to fetch my notepad thinking, this is perfect for my blog. Well you can be the judge. I will recount the most memorable things he said in chronological order.
He started his rant with the reasonable prediction that within the next 8 years we will be entering a new course of humanity in which every human being will have the moral and ethical teaching skills of Jesus, and will be able to walk on water, turn water into wine and perform other miracles. He went on about it for a while until I couldn't help myself, diplomatically declaring, "dude, you have such a faith in the human race that it is delusional." Ignoring me, he went on to draw a picture of a 2 dimensional house, informing us with creepy, intense wide eyes, "ok, so these are the windows, these are the bedrooms and this is the kitchen. Some people (probably referring to me) see the world as this two dimensional house. I'm not one of those people." Reasonable metaphor.
As if aware that some people believe he should be sent to such an institution, he declares, "many people who are thrown into mental hospitals are not in fact crazy, but rather have entered a new dimension." Looking deep into the gullible American's eyes, he employs the credibility building oratical technique of repetedly saying, "scientific research shows that..." as if whatever he believes resembles science.
I am certain I know where he got his next belief, he must have poured over "The Secret," that book promoting the despicable belief that we are entitled to everything we want. To paraphrase the genius, he says that if you really want a burger, you will get a burger...a belief directly plucked from that despicable book. If you want to know why I hate the secret so much, it's this kind of mindset that is responsible for probably all the world's problems.
Without segway, he diverts to his previous topic of entering new dimensions. Telling the american that he will be leaving soon to eat some coco beans, he reveals that cacau is one of the most powerful vehicles for entering a new dimension. It was at this point I left, but I was told later that the reason he had left the US was that he was wanted by the police for indecent sexual conduct with his 14 year old girlfriend who he had taught at a synagogue where he was working at as a Rabbi. They may call him a Rabbi, but I call him batshit crazy. A simple google search of his name revealed that the story was true, complete with pictures and all. An article written by a psychologist who was an expert in sexual perversion mentioned that the way 25 year old Katz talked to children online and the dialogue in his youtube videos was exactly the same language used by sexual predators who groom for children on the net. He had even written an article entitled, "Leather, Chains and God: An Exploration of the Relationship Between BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Domination/Submission and Sadomasochism) and the Abrahamic Religion." A religious leader who abuses children? Who would have thought?

Later that night after arriving back from an anti-climatic 'party' acroos the river, I sat down in front of the fire at the hostel and took in the heat. He being the talk of the town, I mentioned that Lidia Katz had been around that day to give us his views on the world. One of the guys around me said, "yeah we know that guy, he's one of our good friends. He's really smart." Two others, a Jesus lookalike and a slightly hipster looking girl aimlessly nodded. Clearly they had also consumed the Kool Aid. To my left stood the lovely but slightly too gullible American, talking to another 60 year old American hippie I had seen the night before trying to feel up a drunk 20 something girl. He started talking about the planets aligning, leading to the melting of the icecaps. The other American dude, showing an ever so slight piece of skepticism, asked, "but isn't it global warming that's responsible for that?" The old hippe replied, "No man, that's just a distraction." There is only a certain amount of crazy I can take, and this crossed the line. I stood up and said, "Ok, well this is where I leave, that's more than enough crazy for me in one day." I had left them dumbfounded and speechless, as if no one had ever told them what they really think before. Clearly, they had never met a Dutchman (the Dutch always tell you what they think and never sugar coat).

A few days later I found myself in the airport in Guatemala city waiting for a flight when I start chatting with a fellow Aussie. She starts blabbering on about how this journey is a "spiritual journey," how she always carries pot through airports and that she's a Tarot reader who gets paid cash in hand and therefore doesn't pay taxes. She proceeded to whine about how the government, after recent changes, would only continue to pay welfare recipients while they are on holiday for six weeks, as opposed to three months as the rules stipulated previously. Now, I hate to go on an Alan Jones type rant, and I obviously don't know all about her situation, but get a fucking job. You can go on holidays and the government pays for it? Shouldn't someone on welfare who can afford a holiday not be on welfare? I hope she gets caught out, for carrying drugs and being a welfare cheat, when there are people out there actually suffering.

Posted by jeremyampt 10:28

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