Jet lag, boardrooms, and high-pressure deals. That’s what international business brings to mind. But Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons will make you think again. It shares a series of letters sent to the author’s father during his decade of traveling the world, building a billion-dollar power company. Hemphill illuminates the always practical, sometimes poignant, and often humorous things that happen as we connect and business somehow gets done.
“If they served you camel hooves for dinner, and you didn’t know it until you asked, what part of the camel did you have for breakfast?”
“In Islamabad hotels, you must sign a form certifying that you are an infidel and will assuredly go to hell, in order to get room service to bring you a drink. Is this form binding if you die outside of Pakistan?”
“Can you really claim to be in the movie industry if you don’t dress all in black, have a small pony tail, wear an earring, have an idea for a screen play, and harbor a desire to meet Meryl Streep?”
“Cinemas in the Czech Republic serve bacon-flavored popcorn. Why can’t we get that in the US? It’s even better than cheese-flavored popcorn. The whole movie theater smells like breakfast.”
Millions of people around the world travel for business. But how many of us take the time to truly appreciate what we observe and experience?
Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons, by author R.F. Hemphill, is a lesson in the meshing of cultures, the diplomacy of building business relationships, and, ultimately, of surviving to tell the tale.
What inspired you to write this particular book?
This book is a collection of letters. I started writing to my father about my international business experience because I thought I was doing such interesting things in exotic places and having such funny and peculiar experiences. Dad was a smart man, but a fighter pilot in WWII and a career Air Force officer who knew nothing about business. This was a way of explaining what I was doing, and, I suppose, justifying the fact that I hadn’t decided to become an Air Force officer myself.
What has surprised you most about being a published author?
Because I didn’t know any better, I approached the publishing business like any other business opportunity, stumbling around and learning what to do, who to do it with, whose advice to take and whose to ignore. I had to learn the business so I could understand what my role should be. And it has been fascinating, given the enormous disruptions facing book publishers. My biggest surprise is how caught unawares the traditional publishers have been by the digital book/Kindle/Amazon revolution. It’s not like the Scribner CEO couldn’t have looked at the music industry and said to himself, “Gee, some disintermediation seems to be going on, I wonder if analog books could be at risk?” And then apparently, having asked this question, the answer came back: “No, that could never happen to me.