I’ve been writing a monthly column for a magazine back in the US.
You can find some of the writings from the road at the magazine’s website:
Some of the works plus a few new pieces, set with photos and art from my time in Vietnam, will be part of this new book.
#hanoi #vietnam #nostalgiacaphe
‘Please pay now.’
‘Oh-kay…. there you are.’
‘ Welcome to our new place. We just opened three months ago.’
‘Are you from India?’
‘Okay, then…. Switzerland?’
This special set is a project of Design Kompany’s Dipika Kohli.
DK’s new writings from Latvia, made in Rīga, from April-May, 2019.
Honesty, connection, discovery and trusting the process led to the writing, design and layout of these 16-page PDFs. Checkit.
For the last two years, I took a break from Kismuth and my personal projects.
I wanted to see if I could collaborate.
Like, for real. With new people. In foreign lands. Maybe where I didn’t know anyone. Definitely where I didn’t speak what they did.
I guess I had it in mind that it could be a cool, beautiful and interesting way to see what else is ‘out there,’ and co-create with people I had yet to discover, and learn from.
Idealistic. Idyllic. And totally off.
This was a mixed bag.
I can’t stand blogs that go into the whole, ‘I’m so vulnerable’ and silly jazz like that, so I will refrain. But the short awakening was: I can’t work with too many people, and I know that, and I’ve known that for a long time.
Which. Was why. Of course it was why. I had started here. Writing Kismuth.
People would go, ‘Not everyone has the time and luxury to write and travel, like you.’
But yeah. I’m writing more here now. I’ve put together the new issue of Briefly in Sheffield. I loved this story and how people reacted to the zine version of it, which many of us in design like to think of as ‘prototyping’. Although, yeah. Some people think I want to be a ‘zine master.’
I just want to quickly flesh out a story, print it, let people read it, see if they like it. If they do, ask why. If they don’t, ask why.
What else is there?
THIS YEAR, so far in online projects, things are moving in an interesting direction. A giant overarching theme has been coming into shape. People want to talk together share about really big things related to: love, loss, risk, and chance. I get that. It’s kind of a major attractor for me, this idea of leaping into uncertainty. So we talk together about family. Relationships. Life…. Quality. After testing things for a while, it seems clearer and easier, in some ways, that we can develop really great conversation spaces online. More on the way, for those who are connecting, about the next.
WELCOME TO THE COJOURNAL.
This is about who applies, and what we make together as a result of consciously setting aside time and space to commit to writing, writing better, and sharing what we write. (It’s an unusual space and a conversational one, but it’s not for everyone.)
COJOURNALING gives our participating guests a chance to (re)discover the things you know. (You don’t have to sound ‘smart’ or like you are supposed to win something for your job—a raise, a grant, or some accolades for a good line. Instead, it’s about you. Your world, your reflections, your story.) The heart of what makes you you. It’s not coaching. It’s not a writing course. It’s not a trick. The cojournal has really worked for people. So we’re back, with it. Here in mid-2017. Bringing it here, but in a very low-key way, for those of you who happen to be on this page and are open to it, I invite you to apply. Limited seats. Are you ready?
THIS IS A PAGE with details about what is happening now. See what you think, and maybe see you on the other side. —KM
I’ve always written, but not always for myself and a handful of others like those who find Kismuth and me and what I’m sharing, and who read the stories I publish through this site. All of this started in 2012. With the launch of The Elopement, a true story of leaping from America to Ireland, with a soon-to-be partner, perhaps for life. Now, with The Village Report, read the rest of that story. How a couple together broke free of yet other mores, abandoning a way of life for the ‘practice of the unknown, uncertain, and different.’ With a kid.
THE VILLAGE REPORT: BREAKFAST IN CAMBODIA is the new name for the book I’d promised to share with you when I set out on this long, long trip. I remember talking to RF at the Y when this whole thing got formulated, in a tepid way. She said, ‘Shree* said y’all are going traveling around the world.’
At the time, Shree was just four, so he didn’t know that you don’t just blurt out stuff like that. Makes it seem like you have some kind of cheek, bucking the status quo and tapping some unknown quantity of hidden funds from somewhere. It doesn’t seem fair. Taking a trip around the world for a year, or more. Coming back, perhaps. Storing stuff in friends’ attics, basements, extra houses. Even your parents’ place, even if that’s a little awkward, given that you are leaving because you’re not sure what they think about your philosophy and your ideals about Life and Purpose and Meaning and most especially Parenting, and you agree to disagree (but not really) and you Go Away. You make a big deal about it. You are stubborn and boxy. You kick up a yard sale, leave stuff on the yard on Gregson Street in Durham, NC, with a note saying, ‘Take stuff. Leave some money in the mailbox,’ and you are mesmerized that people actually do leave money in the mailbox, and then you take the last of it, which is way more than you wanted it to be, and you pack it up in the old room that is the new room in the house that your parents have. You’ll come back and get it. You will. You solemnly swear.
THREE YEARS LATER you call your mother for the first time since you left. You have come to some realizations, you say. You don’t want this to be hard. You know it’s hard as hell. You still do it. You email. You say, ‘I’m ready to talk to you, if you’re on for it.’ You wonder how it got this way, how you got to be way far away from the land and people you used to know, and yet, and yet, you are still connected. In the ambient, internet-y way, you only have to do one thing. Email. She says cool. You call. You have had some thoughts. You aren’t sure where all the thoughts are going to land. You erase many of them, mid-conversation. You write, you delete. It’s like the creative process, all over again. Just like every fork in the road: that time at the border in Nepal, where you were freaked, or the one when you had to face the people you didn’t want to face on account of fear and diffidence and pride and stubbornness and, mostly, yeah, fear. You do this. You go. You go on the road for a year, maybe more, with no plan, no agenda, and no source of income. Fling of the die? Throwing yourself into the ‘net’ that is supposed to appear? Trusting the process. Diving into uncertainty. Calling 2013 the ‘Year of Enchantment,’ like dressing it up makes going vulnerable somehow okay (it does, actually, help in some way), and 2014 the one of caring and the next one the year of the mountain and then, finally, it takes this one to get to the point where you realize it’s time to call home, the 2016 year comes, and it’s, (Jung’s Great Unconscious, plugging into your personal one, that’s what did it, yeah? had to be): it’s, yeah. ‘The Year of the Relationship.’
FLASH BACK TO 2013. IT IS APRIL IN DURHAM. The flowers are going to bloom. I’d said to Shree*, when the flowers come out, then we go. We will. I promise we will. I have no idea where, or how, but we’re going to go.
Does he know how lucky he is? Someone from The Road would ask, way later. By that point I’d gotten into a groove. I’d grown cooler, more collected. This practicing uncertainty thing wasn’t so bad. Not yet. Not really. I’m a picture of repose when this young person asks it. ‘No,’ I say. ‘He’s just a kid.’But before. Before the whole moving over to Asia, before the airplane changes at Narita for the longest last leg of my life and trains and buses and too many suitcases, I’d had to face the others. The people. The old villagers. In Durham, NC, where I’d thought I’d had a bit of a home (but now am sure I didn’t). And answer the hard questions, the ones behind R’s, when she’d asked it. ‘Are you really going traveling with your kid? For a year? But how will you… how will you live? Are you going? Is that true?’ People were asking. They wanted to know. It was getting a little uncomfortable. It was getting hard.
Back then: Ohhhh, man. How do I explain this in a way that makes it okay?
Now: YES. I am. We are. It’s absolutely, definitely true. And I trust that it will work, because it has worked. And that is experience. What was that thing Einstein said, about personal experience being more important than knowledge? And what about the other stuff, Jung’s stuff, about finding your ‘tribe’ in the people you meet and feel a kinship to that’s outside of geographic, dogmatic bounds, but an ‘usness,’ a sense of that, which is of a variety uniquely its own?
In this frame of mind, from this opposite side of the world and having emerged from a long period of wondering what it was all about and now having written The Village Report to share the conclusions, some of which those reading along in the Kismuth newsletters will have seen me meandering towards and then veering away from and wondering about, later, or assigning less and less importance to the ‘figuring out’ of which, I’m relaxed. I’m also older. Sure. That helps. And so is Shree. That means it’s not so weird anymore. Expat kids are everywhere, here. Life moves. It happens. People find us. We work for them, from time to time. We invent new ways to keep ourselves alive, fed, happy, safe, together, sound, warm, cherishing, engaged, and most of all inspired, when we interact wholeheartedly with The Village. I can tell you more about it another time. Or you can read it in the book. Or we can meet for a cup of tea one day, if I’m in your neighborhood, and talk about it. Maybe a book tour will happen, in living rooms around the world. I’d never, ever send The Village Report to a traditional publishing house—that would ruin it. I don’t need someone to put it on a poster, to ‘market’ it for me, in order to know it’s good. I’m only sharing it through the Kismuth page. This one. And that’s it. Because if just three of you get it, then you’re the three that it’s for.
HUMANITY. The idea is that we are human, we are connected and connecting, are engaged and engaging. We see each other when we notice our differences as much as our similarities… we are human. We are all just part of it. The big thing. The village. And this book? It’s written by not just one of us, but all of us. And that’s it, you know? The village? The village is the sharing.
This book is for AKK.
The below letter was first published online for Kismuth’s VIP e-community, on October 24, 2013.
This one’s for G.
SOMETHING HAPPENED THIS WEEK that changed my whole idea about what it is that “writing” is for, anyways. But let me start at the beginning.
So, I was wrong.
It’s hard to admit.
But yup. I was so totally misinformed when I set out on this quest to “see how other people in Asia raise their children, because, man, it takes a village, doesn’t it?, and we’re so wrapped up in ourselves and our own lives in America.”
Turns out, Asia is wrapped in itself, too. Gadgets, status, timecrunch.
So that changed everything. About what it means to be a person with a kid and have “the village” helping out… We did our best. We cried and tried. Writing about the hard moments, that’s what I wanted to try to do in the series. Yet I haven’t been able to come at it in a really meaningful way. It’s such a personal journey, and all that hard stuff that happened, well, could I really put it into words and share that, out loud? Really, could I?
Then something happened.
Someone else showed me her courage, when she shared with me something that happened to her. Not about anything I could have in a million years have imagined coming, but it is her story, a true one, and something that made me sit up very straight. You can read it, too. [Editor’s note: The Kismuth.wordpress.com has since been made private.] Today’s e-letter is dedicated to G. My new understanding of the purpose of Kismuth became clear when you hit “publish.”
Kismuth started to become something just last week, when you showed me how it helped you talk about your own very real, very haunting story. Coming back to the village, I now see that the work isn’t about the manual labor of holding a baby or the copywriting that comes with making blogs. It’s about the emotional labor. The love that goes into the bonding with your child, or the courage that it takes to say what hurt or changed you with others you don’t even know yet, out loud. The village isn’t about stuff or time. It’s about people. Sharing. Our real stories. All of us. It’s about finding the space and time to open our hearts to one another. Thank you, G.