A Poetic Narrative, by ‘N’ Hanoi

ON 27 JUNE 2017 in Hanoi, a mix of exactly 16 people got together for ’16N’, a traveling conversation salon on a theme that starts with an ‘N’. This time, our topic was NARRATIVE. ‘What are the stories we tell to the world? Which ones do we tell ourselves?’ and other questions popped to place as we took three floors of Nhọ Nồi, small cafe in Ba Đình, quite by surprise. An installation like no other ‘N’, this one resulted in a flurry of poetry-writing, on the spot.

This spot:

‘N’ happened here, Nhọ Nồi. (And on two other floors, too.)

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FEW INSTRUCTIONS ISSUED FORTH, and that, I believe, is why this ‘N’ unfolded as prettily as it did. Days before ‘N’ at our first meeting, guest TN had said, poignantly, ‘Sometimes you have to let a thing happen instead of make it happen.’ Inspired by the notion that nothing needs to be forced (including the number 16), on the day itself, we let it flow. Looser, lighter than any other ‘N’ programme so far, this one gave way fully to the playfulness of our guests, I thought.

[Right, ‘N’ Hanoi? We did that. Didn’t we? We wrote impromptu, we eased into it, found a groove and a rhythm, and wound up having a poetry slam. More soon, in a protected-page post to follow with a certain picture, but for the moment, these are the three poems you all left behind… I thought you might like to read them again. To co-discovery! To meetings of chance! And to… real life. Enjoy, enjoy. More soon. <3]

 

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I.
‘How do I fix this?’

I have always wanted to be blonde
Does everyone experience Fomo?
Fomo can be a motivation for someone?
I’ve recently started using the word “fomo” as an action verb.
Sadly, nobody understands what I say.
Sadly, sometime, people hate my pictures.
I think you’ll always find people that disagree with you.
I guess it depends only on their intentionsKeep taking photos!

Thankfully
you will be cured
during
the journey.
What can you break with the world’s smallest hammer?
Just forget it,
Use your
feet.

 

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II.
‘Nameless’

I’m really terrible at remembering names.
LET’S HAVE BREAKFAST
She always loved him making her smoothies in the morning.
Then he popped a mint in his mouth;
I love these flowers
A terrifying hue of violet
‘Can terrifying be a positive description of something?’
‘Yes, if you overcome your fear…’
‘Terrible love cannot be overcome…’
‘Anything can be
overcome by
true love.’

 

 

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III.
‘Subtle vibrations’

I have a life here.
14 people in the world are richer than all the rest, self-evidently
The truest measure of their riches
Is the willingness to fold themselves open
One day you will have all the love that you’ve given
If you have not given enough love, will you not be able
To see the love that everyone
Receives?
I see what I want to see. And you?
The sound that weasels make playing in a ball pit.
A little known fact: weasels are deaf, they can only feel vibrations.
*!
I wish I was a terrifying weasel
So I could produce terrific coffee.
Such a small thing like coffee
Can change your whole day! Why?
Because of no reason at all
Except that
We are
Here.

 

 

Towards the next thing, 5N

IT MIGHT BE A LITTLE PREMATURE to start blogging about the next ‘N’ already, but it is here, in my heart, as soon as the last one finishes. There is, of course, the thank-you not that I am still writing. For those who joined us at ‘N’ in Hanoi… wow, just last month. At the very end of June, when we were all sweltering and wondering if we could really pull that off, must have been really surprising (as one guest told me, hello GN!) for some to see that we did get together, 16 of us, and then, we took a selfie.

I need to share that.

I need to do that right, but I am also realizing that there is no ‘right’ for things like this. Blogging, is it already old school to be a blogger? I do not do product placements. There are no sponsors. I feel sad when I go to a nice event only to see that it’s been co-opted by some giant car dealership or beer company, and it becomes, well, more of the same. The banal.

This happened before, when I would join events that were ‘free’ but turned out to be anything but, what with the snapping of photos for someone’s ‘promotion’ and the marketing materials that are shoved at you more subtly in 2017 then they were in the 1990s, they don’t print flyers and blast them at you, they just… what? Make weird psychological triggers, capitalize on your insecurities, make you feel like you need something (absolutely ‘must-have’ it), because you’re not complete enough without… But ‘N’, if you were wondering, ‘N’, I think, I believe, is a way to really come back to just being who we are, together in a small circle, small is important, but not too small, because… you need a mix of people and I’ve found 16 to be perfect.

Four groups of four, that’s a bit of a holdover from the days when I recall working with other consultants to bring the jigsaw method to play in experiential learning workshops that we would design together. To varying degrees of success, of course. It’s not trendy or sexy, what we’re making here, in S P A C E salons, workshops, magazine, print stuff, zines, eZines, and things to come. Things to come! There is always that wild card spot. ______. Anything is possible, anything anything.

‘N’ CPH. For ‘N’ in Copenhagen, so far we have 5 people who are ‘in’, and that’s exciting. Things have changed a lot since 2015, though, since that time when they said ‘yes’… Still. We have been in touch. Corresponding, from time to time. The theme is NEARNESS, and that means building trust, over time. Showing up, even ambiently on email, is important, I think. Learning, changing, as I go.

More patient, as I learned to be from those I met in Copenhagen in 2015, on a foray into that place to see about making ‘N’ happen. I got there and realized I didn’t have enough time to find the people I was looking for, that those whom I would meet would need time to meet again, that email wasn’t something people do anymore (this is just something I do, is it?), and that… you have to kind of know people before you can show up from out of town and throw together something as wacky and undefined as ‘N’. But… I have been… staying the course. I still did some small things, a little talk about productivity and a couple of salons: Internet I Hate You and Drift and the Nomad. Both were good. Small, clean.

OPTIMISTIC. For Copenhagen, for 5N, whenever it will be, and however it comes into shape when it does, I am optimistic. I have been practicing at this, just that… cultural differences. It is so not like America, you don’t just walk around handing out cards and putting up flyers and saying, ‘This. This is good. You should do this.’ No one takes that kind of craic seriously, there. And why should they? I like the place because people do show up when they say they will… no fuzzy cancellations or weirdness which happened so often here in Phnom Penh that I got riled up about enough to design ‘N’ Phnom Penh in the first place. That was when you had to get tickets ahead of the poll-making step, so you really had to commit before you even got to help select the date. Same with Bangkok’s ‘N’. And London’s. This time, though, in Hanoi, I thought it would be interesting to kind of wing it. Once you get there, and you start being yourself, and people can see that you are earnest about it, what you’re making I mean, then yeah. It works. It can, it does. It will, for CPH, too. (But if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too.)

IS IT WORKING? That’s subjective. Maybe people wouldn’t see the losses that are coming back financially as successes, but I, personally, find each ‘N’ moment to be such a magical one, such a gem, that I can’t help but keep motivated to carry forwards. ‘Success’ isn’t about ‘outcomes,’ it’s about paying attention, I think, to what you are learning as you go, and being able to adapt yourself so that you can, well, add to your life instead of simply check things off some list.) Is it working? Who knows. We are just 4N in. I am going to be writing more about Hanoi soon, and maybe I’ll share about Bangkok and Phnom Penh, too. There were ‘N’ events here I hardly wrote about, mostly because… new at ‘N’-hosting. New means… reluctant to share. Less so now. Less new, more open. Blogging again, weird, that. Anyway. Here’s to the journey. And very warm welcomes to those just joining us, in S P A C E.

‘N’ is making steps in Hanoi

JUST BOOKED OUR VENUE. For 16N.

Terribly exciting, this step. Almost there now.

For the real life ‘N’ moment.

Our theme for Hanoi is NARRATIVE.

What are the stories we tell to the world? Which ones do we tell ourselves?

A conversation installation in DK’s signature style (improv, reflection, conversation, new connections, and fun!) for just 16. Tickets are on the move, starting… Five minutes ago. Phew.

This is definitely a practice of uncertainty, but wow, what if… What if 16 strangers do connect in real life, next week, by design, through ‘N’?

Let’s see what unfolds.

Curious? In Hanoi?

Send an email to find out more.


 

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N tickets. Just 16. Photo: Lam Nguyen

Ten or maybe eleven

THE POLL IS GOING, and is almost finished, I think, where we are seeing if 16 people can agree on a date for ‘N’. At the time of this writing (12.10PM), ten have. Ten people, people I have just met (some on the street, some on the big road, a few on the cafe hopping tours around the back neighborhoods west of Old Quarter). Ten of these folks, open and curious as they are, are agreeing on a date for ‘N’ Hanoi. One person emailed a ‘yes’, but I think it has to be a check mark on the poll to count. Doesn’t it? Hm.

16 is the magic number. Working my way towards discovering us.

But. 10.

Ten is a lot.

Ten is more than I had imagined, as I still have all of today, all of tomorrow, all of the next day, and all of the day after that, to keep on discovering people and asking them to join me at ‘Secret Event,’ on facebook, if they are there, because this is Asia and though I don’t have a personal facebook (I resist! After closing four accounts, I simply resist this frivolous thing!)…. Even though that, well. Fact: facebook is a giant way that people in this part of the world will communicate about things like this.

 

A. Spaice

IDENTITY. You need to have an online thing. An online thing that people can check out, so they can know you’re real, and even if you’re making an abstract thing like ‘N’, they still need to know that you are really… Credible. I guess that’s understandable. These days you have people walking up to you all the time asking you to do something, buy something, read something. The subtle things like people pretending to be friends with you so they can move you towards their agenda, that’s icky, so I try to just be direct now. [Example: There’s a thing. It’s happening next week. You’re getting this invitation in person because the only way to get an invitation is by meeting me or emailing me, because that’ just how this weird project goes.] I used to do it by Internet, inviting people I mean. I would have all kinds of channels going and sometimes, just sometimes, I would meet someone incredible and they would say, ‘Why not? I’m in,’ just like that. Blind. I totally couldn’t believe that, when it happened, and it made me want to keep going with the Internet seeking. But in Asia, it’s different. I realize that the way people do things here isn’t like how people do things in Western countries. Heck, sending email feels so arcane. I mean, I feel like an anachronism saying, ‘Email me.’ Yet… Email. Is how. I send the invitations. Because I don’t want everyone to know everything all the time. I think we’re sliding back into that kind o fworld, aren’t we? Where we just share in smaller circles? I mean, people think their facebook is ‘just for friends and family,’ but is it really? *skepticism* [Yeah, you can tell I don’t like facebook, right? I don’t. Especially nowadays when it becomes a substitute for real life, in person, impromptu, meandering, organically developed conversation. But then, it’s a fact. Embrace it, right? That’s why I had to make an event page, this time.

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MIND YOU, the  event thing discloses pretty much nothing about ‘N’ and how it goes, and who it’s for, and why you should come. Why? Because it’s not that kind of a thing. It’s not ‘cool.’ There will be no free beer, no free pizza, no women in bikinis parading about. At least, I’m 99% sure there won’t be. A party for conversation. A party for ‘the third place’ (see that on Wikipedia, for more about spaces that aren’t for work, and aren’t for home). It’s about… Us. Gathering briefly and once with new and different others for a remarkable connection (leave the design and hosting to me). For honest sharing. Seeing one another. I go on and on about that in the page about the project, here.

Because ‘N’ is not for those who are looking ‘to get something.’ It’s for those of us who remain curious, who still want to converse, connect, but not in a weird or creepy way. ‘N’ makes space. For real life. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. But briefly, and once. For the craic, like, as we used to say when we got influenced by everyone around us in the southwest of Ireland. Ah, but I digress. Meander. Shift. Shape of space. Chance. The encounter. Randomness. Serendipity. The story ahead of us… Ah, but yes. This, to me, this possibility, this is it. Beauty.

To the journeys!

AHEAD. Oh. And… Later today I’ll post a few pictures of the venue we’ve picked, for ‘N’. Can’t wait… And… If you are just joining me, and are curious about ‘N’ and are in Hanoi, request an invitation through the button at the bottom of 16n.strikingly.com.