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Sharing at Casa Cakchiquel – the house of many fires

“I’d like you to meet my friend, Robert. He is making his dream come true by restoring an old house. It is his dream house.” Helga said to us one morning.

On first thoughts, we were like “Uhh… dream house? Some rich man buying over an old house and restoring its extravagance so that he can retire in it?” We then reminded ourselves to drop preconceptions, expectations and presumptions before actually meeting people – only then can we connect to people with authenticity.

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon. When we got to Robert’s house, we were greeted by a nice and warm fire cackling at the fireplace:

The fire of Casa Cakchiquel

The fire of Casa Cakchiquel

Having grown up in the tropics of Singapore, we’ve both never seen a fireplace with an actual fire burning; we were fascinated.

That afternoon, we sat by the fireplace, had cake and tea while Robert shared the story of the house, also known as “Casa Cakchiquel” with us – how it was the very first house built around Lake Atitlan by a Swiss Countess, how it survived the various natural disasters and even served as a refuge for the villages when their homes got destroyed by the storms.

The Mayans would come into the house, crowd around the living room where the fireplace was and build their own fires on the floor. In the end, each family with their fire filled the entire room with smoke and smog. At first, the Countess would get upset because she didn’t understand why the Mayans would build their own fires instead of enjoying the blazing fire at her fireplace.

It was later when that she found out that the fire was a symbol of “home” for the local people – where the family moved to, they build a fire and call it home. The Countess had opened her house to them and took them in during trying times. In her house, these locals build their “homes”. For that reason, Casa Cakchiquel was also known as “the house of many fires”.

Robert had bought over the house in 2004. At that time it was a dilapidated building that was falling apart. He’d wanted to restore the house back to its original splendour and gift it back to the local community, just like the Countess had intended the house for originally.

7 years of restoration work... and we're almost there

7 years of restoration work... and we're almost there

Robert then brought us around the house for a tour, explaining to us the renovations that took place on-and-off through the last 7 years. We were glad we did not impose our first thoughts on him and met him with opened minds and hearts. For Robert met us with an equally opened heart and shared from the depths of it – his story of Casa Cakchiquel.

The video would come soon enough. Meanwhile, updates Casa Cakchiquel’s news and events may be followed here.

When we asked Robert if he would write his dream on his hand and share it with us, he sat in front of the fire, thought for a moment and finally wrote:

The man behind Casa Cakchiquel - Uncle Robert

The man behind Casa Cakchiquel - Uncle Robert

During our interview with Robert, we explored the possibility of us having a sharing session in the house. Having done our rounds around the lake and in Xela, we were looking for a venue in Panajachel to no avail. Without a second thought, Robert agreed and by the second day, he had things set up.

We were set for a sharing session on the coming Friday. “Everything has been organised, we are ready for you,” Robert said.

Un sueño compartido, Un sueño inspirado @ Casa Cakchiquel

At about 8PM, we finally began

*photos taken by Mr. Robert Eggs

By the light of Casa Cakchiquel...
By the light of Casa Cakchiquel…

By the light of Casa Cakchiquel
We shared stories of love, of life, of hopes
We shared the dreams we collected
We shared the humanity we encountered

By the same light of Casa Cakchiquel
People came forth and shared their loves, their lives, their hopes
They added to our chain of dreams inspiring dreams, to our chain of kindness, of generosities, of humanity
They added to so much more…meaning to our journey

It was almost midnight by the time everyone (except for Robert and Helga) left Casa Cakchiquel. We had a moment to sit and savour the cake that Helga had baked specially for the event.

Finally a moment to sit and eat!

Finally a moment to sit and eat!

Robert lit the fire in the fireplace, and the four of us sat in front of it in comfortable silence. Staring at the fire, we were mesmerized by its flames, its glow, its warmth.

“This is what the house was built for you know?” Robert continued, “A place to host people passing through, a community where people exchange energies and build ideas. I know you’re looking for a place to work. You’re more than welcomed to Casa Cakchiquel – we have desks, chairs and wifi, too.”

Helga had mentioned to him that we were looking for house-sitting jobs so that we could park and work on our videos and website, thinking he might be able to connect us with someone. So Robert decided to invite us to work at Casa Cakchiquel during our stay with Helga; and when that ends, move in to stay with him at his other home.

“We always get what we need, when we need it. So we can already start giving thanks for it.” A sentence often repeated at our sharing sessions. In fact, a sentence we had said only moments ago at the sharing session.

The fire cackled at that moment, as if chuckling at the conspiracies of the Universe, as if to say, “Welcome home my girls.” We gave thanks to Robert; and then once more silently, to the Countess who’d built the house with the intention to share it.

The night was cold, but we were warm in our hearts and souls

The night was cold, but we were warm in our hearts and souls

It’d begun to drizzle when Helga and us left Casa Cakchiquel. A bitter wind was blowing and the night was cold. But it didn’t matter. For the fire had warmed our bodies; but more importantly, we were warm in our hearts and in our souls.

We were warmed…by the house of many fires.

Working and Creating @ Casa Cakchiquel

A place with internet, desks and chairs for us to "park and work"!
A place with internet, desks and chairs for us to “park and work”!

Couple of days later, we found ourselves “all set up” at the office space of Casa Cakchiquel, furiously working away.

“It was a worrying situation in Guatemala.  There was just no stable nor fast enough internet connection to upload our HD videos.  It was depressing.  To finally see a video uploaded bit by bit and then finally finished uploading successfully was like releasing a bowling ball – the whole world stops as it rolls down the lane and witnesses it bringing all the pins down.  STRIKE!”Tay

Val battles her writing blocks

Val battles her writing blocks

“It was thanks to Uncle Robert and Casa Cakchiquel that you are reading this entry in the first place. Without the space, the amenities, the internet, I would not have been able to write any of these. I would not have experienced the thrill of writing so much until I could throw up. I would not have experienced the delirious joy of facing and overcoming a writing block.”Val

Food! A much welcomed distraction :)

Food! A much welcomed distraction 🙂

Sharing Dinner - the perfect ending to a hard day's work

Sharing Dinner - the perfect ending to a hard day's work

Casa Cakchiquel – the house of many fires
Because it hosted the many Mayan families who built individual fires to call this place their “home”
Because it ignited a passion in a man to restore the house and more importantly, restore its intentions
Because it fueled a commitment in this man to persevere (for 7 years and counting)

Casa Cakchiquel – the house of many fires
A fire that welcomed us without judgment, presumptions or expectations when we first visited
A fire that held space lovingly for us as we poured our hearts out during our sharing session
A fire that embraced us gently and reassuringly as we worked and worked and kept working

Casa Cakchiquel
The house of many fires
And more to come

Help us share one more story –
Your spare change, even if it’s just $1, will go a long way