Tuesday, September 23, 2014

dust tea, dingoes & dragons (Book Review)

I wasn't sure what to expect when I received (at no cost to me) a review copy of dust tea, dingoes & dragons by R.F. Hemphill.  I thought it sounded like a fun read, so I decided to go for it.

As always, first I'll give you the publisher's description:
Millions of people around the world travel for business every day.  In fact, American companies spend $225 billion per year on business travel.  Jet lag, boardrooms, and high pressure deals—that’s what international business brings to mind, right?
But how many of us take the time to truly appreciate what we observe and experience during these trips?
R.F. Hemphill spent 10 years and 4 million airline miles developing a startup a global electric power and distribution company that is now in 21 countries with $18 billion in annual revenue.  But in all that time, is was his travel experiences that meant the most to him.
dust tea, dingoes, & dragons: adventures in culture, cuisine & commerce from a globe-trekking executive is a collection of letters Hemphill wrote to his father over his decade of intense travel.  Practical, poignant, and often very humorous, this books is about the uniqueness of cultures, the diplomacy of building business relationships, and, ultimately, of living life to the fullest.
From camel hooves for dinner to signing an infidel form just to get a drink to bacon-flavored popcorn, Hemphill brings a unique observation to many of the experiences that go unnoticed during business travel.
As the description says, dust tea, dingoes & dragons is a collection of letters that Mr. Hemphill wrote to his father over the course of about ten years.  The author spent much of that time traveling through Asia and Europe.  Most of the trips were for business:  Hemphill was a founder and senior executive at AES, a global electric power corporation.

The start of the book is about business:  meeting with executives and government officials, negotiating, making deals.  I was looking forward to the promised "culture" and "cuisine" parts!

My patience was rewarded as I read on.  Most of the book deals with culture and cuisine, largely describing the differences between the specific foreign culture and ours in the US.  It's told as a story with some observations mixed in.  To give you a flavor, I'll share a paragraph about France:
As we were leaving Aix to go on this drive, it was decided that since we were on vacation, it was authorized to have ice cream for lunch.  Ice cream doesn't really stay with you.  By mid-afternoon, however, we were getting pretty hungry.  We decided to get something to eat in the small town near the vineyard, at the Relais CĂ©zanne, which the guidebook explicitly recommends as a terrific place for whiling away several glorious hours sitting on the patio in the sun-dappled afternoon.  It neglected to mention that you could sit there getting sun dappled all you wanted, but you couldn't get anything to eat at any time other than the narrow window officially allowed for lunch--12:00 to 2:00.  At other times of the day you may read the menu, but you may not order from it.  We found this confusing, but attributed it to tourist naivetĂ© and the peculiarities of dealing with such a famous establishment in such a famous location.  Little did we know ...
For the most part, the accounts of business trips don't include tourism.  However, the author includes some letters about personal travel.  To me these are descriptions of traveling with the fabulously wealthy.  One example:  a group of 38 toured Asia in opulent style for about three weeks.  The group included an expedition photographer and two administrative facilitators from a travel agency.  (Remind me to hire an expedition photographer for our next family vacation.)  It was interesting to read because I will never travel that way.  (Which is fine, but that's another blog post.)

dust tea, dingoes & dragons is, as I'd hoped, a fun read.  Parts are quite funny.  The author includes some clever jokes and puns, as well as some that will make you groan.  It may not be exactly politically correct.  It contains a few instances of mild profanity and at least one allusion to adult themes.  I didn't find these offensive, but some readers might.

This book won't be everyone's cup of (dust) tea for everyone, but I liked it.

Links for more information:


  1. I like that it got better with reading. I'm bad like that and don't always keep going.

  2. Hmmm... That sounds like an interesting book for travel writers and others who travel frequently. Maybe even those who desire to travel more frequently. I'm not sure if that one would interest me. I'm like Alexis I may not keep going. I am more likely to keep going with fiction than I am with nonfiction.

  3. Glad it got better... I have a hard time if it doesn't grab me from the start though...


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