Jeremy Hildreth http://www.jeremyhildreth.com …contemplates writing, branding and travelling with an insane degree of nuance (I'll be as honest as I can here) Sat, 05 Apr 2014 19:20:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.1 “A regular on Monocle 24″http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2014/04/a-regular-on-monocle-24/#utm_source=feed&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2014/04/a-regular-on-monocle-24/#comments Sat, 05 Apr 2014 19:09:03 +0000 Jeremy http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/?p=2703  

I’ve been told I have a great face for radio.

Tyler Brûlé’s media wing — the redoubtable Monocle — has, since its third-ever issue back in 2008, featured my writing in its magazine’s pages from time to time, and since the launch of the Monocle 24 radio station two years ago, I’ve made regular appearances on air.

Starting imminently, however, I’ll be the featured guest of a monthly radio segment [working title] “The Place Branding Roundup with Jeremy Hildreth.” My emphasis will be on non-advertising forms of place communication and reputation building.

In honour of this new gig, Monocle radio producer Chris Fitch helped me pull together a 10-minute highlight reel of my past comments on tourism advertising (which tended to be the subject they’d have me into the studio to talk about). That’s the YouTube “video” above (which is mostly audio, with some stills to illustrate some of my points).

There’s also a SoundCloud clip from my appearance last month to comment on Florence’s crowdsourcing of a new tourism logo. (Spoiler: I’m rather supportive of it, if for no other reason than as much as I love designers, it’s fun to burst their bubble now and then.) Click here to go straight to my segment; the audio loads 12 seconds after the page itself does.

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Creativity in actionhttp://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2014/03/creativity-in-action/#utm_source=feed&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2014/03/creativity-in-action/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 15:01:50 +0000 Jeremy http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/?p=2690  

I got to be a performance artist for a day. And a branding consultant. At the same time.

As part of an ongoing brand identity project for the northern European city of Vilnius, Lithuania (pop. 500,000), my Thrilling Cities’ colleague Rob Mills and I put a crate of fresh fruit on the baggage carousel of the airport arrivals hall, and the filmed people’s reactions.

It was a stunt — an urban identity action – as well as an authentic performance art piece which introduces arriving visitors to the Vilnius’s bohemian character and Fluxus heritage (Fluxus was/is an influential art movement founded by Lithuanians in the 1960s that exalts the mundane.)

I came up with the idea for a baggage claim “Flux performance” last year, and the airport management loved it when I explained it to them. They agreed to help me do it, it just took a few months before I was able to get to Vilnius to pull it off.

Since the test run was a success, they say they will try it for a week. If that works, they’ll do it all the time, on all five baggage carousels, for every arriving flight. If they do that, social media begin what it is, Vilnius has a real chance become known for it, and it goes from being a stunt to an identity feature.

 

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Long walks and city brandinghttp://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2013/10/long-walks-and-city-branding/#utm_source=feed&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2013/10/long-walks-and-city-branding/#comments Sat, 12 Oct 2013 10:42:15 +0000 Jeremy http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/?p=2633

Don’t eat me.

Lithuania is more than 20% forested, and the capital city itself, Vilnius, is 1/3 trees. Rio claims to have the largest urban forest in the world, but I am positive Vilnius’s is larger.

So, if Vilnius can get that designated properly, they could garner themselves the headline “Vilnius overtakes Rio as home to the largest urban forest in the world.” I’ve sold the mayor on this idea, and as part of my work here I’m developing a few initiatives like that. It’s what I regard as real city branding through policies and demonstrative actions (what Simon Ahnolt calls symbolic actions and what JT Singh and I at our consultancy Thrilling Cities call dramatic actions, because they dramatise the message indelibly rather than just spouting it non-credibly).

Meanwhile, despite the fact that I’ve been coming to this country and city regularly for years, I’d never before actually traipsed through a proper forest here. On this late summer trip, I finally corrected this error, and collected enough boletus mushrooms to make a soup and enough chantarelles to make two phenomenal omelettes.

Food tastes better when you forage for it yourself.

Speaking of long walks, a Guardian review of a book about creative people’s rituals caught my attention. The rituals include:

  1. Be a morning person
  2. Don’t give up the day job (edit: is that a ritual?)
  3. Take lots of walks
  4. Stick to a schedule
  5. Practise strategic substance abuse
  6. Learn to work anywhere

In the elaboration beneath number 5, it’s explained that Balzac drank 50 cups of coffee a day and died of heart failure at age 51. Perhaps he should have drank less coffee and taken more walks in the forest (specifically, the forest in Vilnius, Lithuania, which, by the way, is the largest urban forest in the world…much bigger than Rio de Janeiro’s…..)

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Branding a whole continent? Sure, why not (Adventures in Latin America)http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2013/03/branding-a-whole-continent-sure-why-not/#utm_source=feed&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2013/03/branding-a-whole-continent-sure-why-not/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2013 09:08:39 +0000 Jeremy http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/?p=2644

My client, Mr X, at Mexico City’s architectural and anthropological marvel.

I’m always up for the hard cases. Ever since getting into the field of branding and identity a decade ago, I’ve been drawn to challenges: post-war countries with no obvious visitor attractions who, nevertheless, want tourists (East Timor); regions that are mistakenly identified with a different country (Swedish Lapland, when Lapland is commonly thought to be a part of Finland); or the country with the most bombed hotel in the world, that’s also the home of the Titanic and Bushmill’s whisky (Northern Ireland).

With this track record, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that when RedIbero, the association representing the trade promotion authorities off all Latin American countries, asked me to attempt to create a coherent identity strategy for an entire continent, I said count me in.

We’ve had meetings in Buenos Aires, Panama City, Lima, and Mexico City. I’m not sure where it’s all headed, as by its nature, the client has a limited ability to take large-scale actions — and actions, as I hope I’ve made clear, is where branding happens.

I’ve had a few pieces of advice for them thus far, the best being to create a flag. Because a place really isn’t a place unless it has a flag. And because “Latin America” is the continent that doesn’t exist but really ought to, encompassing the swath of land and people from Tijuana to Tierra del Fuego as a natural, albeit large, grouping. It needs the basic trappings of placeness.

UPDATE: A very, very smart person agrees with me. The flag idea has been given the imprimatur of a Harvard Business School associate professor. I met Diego Comin by chance at a restaurant in Arequipa, Peru and we had a wonderful conversation over roasted cuy (guinea pig). I like to bounce my ideas off others to vet and refine them before I take them to the client. Diego said:

I really think producing a flag for Latin America is a neat idea. The ‘deep’ reasons why I believe so have to do with the fact that Latin American countries share many fundamental things: values, history, significant attributes for tourists and for business such as warmth and friendliness of the people, natural beauty, distinct cuisine, great energy, economic dynamism in the near and medium term, enormous cultural wealth in all thinkable dimensions (art, architecture, literature, music, fashion, etc..

And yet, despite all these commonalities, my feeling is that Latin American countries rarely go on the same boat. They tend to fight more than cooperate despite the huge gains at all levels from pursuing policies, and alliances that are good for them globally rather than individually. The idea of the flag could help them embrace these commonalities and appreciate the common gains from integrating, pretty much as we did in Europe 50 years ago. It is just a symbol, but sometimes, symbols have important intangible consequences. And this could well be one.

In Mexico City I visited Diego Rivera’s house and studio (and many of his murals), the house where Trotsky lived and died, and the “Blue House” of Frida Kahlo (lover to Diego and Trotsky).

In Teotihuacan I continued this year’s ongoing experiment in eating insects, with white and red caterpillars and ants’ eggs; my client Mr X, adopting the persona of a nature documentarian (but failing to keep a straight face), made a short film of the escapade:

Eating bugs “for science!” At a restaurant outside of Mexico City, near the ruins of the ancient city of Teotihuacan (at its height in 500AD considerably larger than contemporaneous Rome), I ordered a sampler plate of white caterpillars (gusano blanco), red caterpillars (gusano rojo) and ant eggs (escamoles).

 

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Muammar and mehttp://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2013/01/muammar-and-me/#utm_source=feed&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2013/01/muammar-and-me/#comments Thu, 31 Jan 2013 03:33:01 +0000 Jeremy http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/?p=2611

In 2008, when I snapped this photo in a Tripoli bazaar, no one knew his time was almost up.

No, I never met Kadafi. But I did once go to Libya, ostensibly to help him.

This issue of “sleeping with the enemy” will exist as long as commercial opportunities present themselves within the borders of some of the less salubrious regimes of the world.

Last night in Mongolia I dined with a gentleman who is considering bringing a dozen North Korean citizens to Ulaanbaatar to work in a textile business he’s involved with. We talked about the difference between the ethical realities of this (namely, that there is arguably a ton of good in it for all involved) and the easily anticipated ignorant knee-jerk reactions many would have (“You’re helping a dictator! You’re using slave labour!”).

Back when I worked at the Cato Institute in the mid ’90s (and probably during a lecture from Tom Palmer, but I can’t quite recall), I had a key sociopolitical realisation: countries don’t trade with countries — people trade with people. Never since that satori moment I have tarred a population with the same brush as its government; no longer will I ever conflate  a society with its present form of governance; forevermore will issues of right and wrong in international commercial relations be one big grey area for me, always to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

When interviewed recently about my involvement in Libya in 2008 (which never got far off the ground anyway), I remained, as they say, defiant:

Libya was, and [still is], a charming and dynamic emerging economy attractive to foreigners. And there was a window when sane people believed Libya’s governance under Kadafi was on the verge of turning a corner. As it played out, Kadafi walked his nation right up to the precipice of being a respectable regime, but then pivoted and went back the other way. But people who say “I told you so!” either don’t know what they’re talking about, or are the type who lack the ambition or idealism to avail themselves of unconventional opportunities to get rich and/or make the world a better place.

The full interview is in three parts: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. If you only have enough time or interest for one section, just read Part 3.

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Quite unlike any land you know abouthttp://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2013/01/quite-unlike-any-land-you-know-about/#utm_source=feed&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2013/01/quite-unlike-any-land-you-know-about/#comments Sun, 13 Jan 2013 19:57:18 +0000 Jeremy http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/?p=2589  

Source: BBC, January 2013.

Source: Jeremy Hildreth, March 2002.

On the banks of Loch Ness is an odd location to grow suddenly nostalgic for Burma, for it’s a stretch to connect the two places: “This is Burma,” wrote the half-Scottish Rudyard Kipling (whose ”road” to Mandalay was/is actually a river, the Irrawaddy, long and narrow like the loch), “and it will be quite unlike any land you know about.”

The fact is, though: I get sentimental about Burma at the drop of a hat. And there I was in the Scottish Highlands — practically hanging out the cottage’s dormer window waving my phone in the ether to snag a precious data signal — when I ran across a BBC headline about the Moustache Brothers comedy trio.

The memories flooded back as I read the article about their ongoing success.

Burma was one of my first grand adventures abroad. In 2002, Chris Robbins and I ignored the LAND ROUTE NOT PERMISSIBLE stamps on our visas and became two of the first westerners in decades to retrace the Old Burma Road from Mandalay to Kunming, crossing the Chinese border on foot. Two weeks later, in an Internet cafe in Christchurch, New Zealand, I wrote what turned out to be my second-ever article for The Wall Street Journal (“The Real Politically Incorrect”), about the Moustache Brothers’ subversive comedy show

Eleven (!) years on, I’m delighted to learn that Burma’s three “top bananas” are still plying their trade (and not from a jail cell), and pleased that their country now seems on the verge, at long last, of emergence into the modern world.

 

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Eight pointers to improve your snapshotshttp://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2012/12/eight-pointers-to-improve-your-snapshots/#utm_source=feed&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2012/12/eight-pointers-to-improve-your-snapshots/#comments Fri, 07 Dec 2012 04:51:37 +0000 Jeremy http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/?p=2573

Hildreth in Machu Picchu: the rare place that doesn’t need branding.

Risking immodesty, I do declare: if you hand me your camera at a scenic location and ask me to snap a photo of you with your arm around your buddy or boyfriend, you have made a good decision. Because while I’m no extraordinary photographer, I tend to take excellent snapshots — probably better than yours, based on my extensive experience of handing my own camera to strangers, so in a minute I’ll make you a better shutterbug with some easy tips.

But first, the lead in, by way of travel anecdote.

It occurred to me to write this post because I’ve recently been the beneficiary of some truly wonderful and fortuitous snapshot-taking, for which I am grateful. Last week, Peru became the 71st country I’ve visited in my life so far. I was there primarily on business, but you know me: I couldn’t get that close to Machu Picchu without making the pilgrimage.

On the evening train through the mountains from Cuzco to the “base camp” of Aguascalientes, I met Gabriel Ruiz, a Brazilian guy my age on vacation from the Sao Paulo grind, and we became fast friends. We crashed at the same hotel, and set out at 5am the following morning to schlep to the top of the ancient Incan city…only to find it totally socked in. People, including Gabriel, grumbled. “We got up early to watch the sun come up over Machu Picchu, and now this!” Be patient, I urged all within earshot, for I was confident that something more spectacular and mystical than a mere sunrise awaited us.

I was right.

Contemplatively, I sat still on an agricultural terrace facing into the occluding cloud. Over the course of an hour, the rays of the sun burrowed their way into the scene and pushed the mists aside. By 7am, the city, built around 1450 A.D. and abandoned within a hundred years, was visible: boy, and how!

I confess that as dead civilisations go, the Incas leave me cold — primitive mountain worshippers, I say — but credit where it’s due: they had a hell of a knack for high-altitude real estate development. Machu Picchu is, as the Michelin folks would say, worth the detour.

Knowing a Kodak moment instinctively, and with the last of the great cloud ebbing, I handed Gabriel my camera. I offered up a suggestion or two about composition, and urged him to take a bunch of pictures, but basically, as I once heard legendary creative director Michael Peters put it beautifully, I “gave him his head.” I let him do his thing. Call his own shots. The result, at the start of this post, speaks for itself.

So, my friends, take heed of these tips and you will take significantly better travel photos:

  1. Compose mindfully. The basic decision: are you taking a portrait with a background, in which case you want to zoom in on your subject(s) and take care about what’s over their shoulder(s), or are you taking a photo of a scene that has people in it? The Machu Pichhu photo of me by Gabriel is an example of the latter; I am small and in the corner and you can’t really see my face — and it’s perfect that way.
  2. Don’t cut off people’s feet by accident. Just don’t. I would support a globally enforced 100 USD spot fine for this misdemeanour.
  3. Level the horizon. Generally unless you’re doing something artsy, a level horizon looks better in a picture.
  4. Don’t press down on the shutter button — instead squeeze the camera. With your index finger on the shutter and your thumb beneath the camera body, apply equal pressure from top and bottom. This keeps the camera steady. (Side note: I’ve heard that professional snipers and biathletes pull the trigger so gently and gradually that they are themselves unsure of the exact moment the rifle will fire; that’s the spirit of a stable shutter release.)
  5. Keep your elbows in and hold your breath. In bright light, you can ignore this. In dim light, it can be shot-saving.
  6. Give an audible 1-2-3 count. Hearing this puts the people you’re photographing at greater ease and helps them pose and compose themselves.
  7. Take four or five shots. Just as my grandmother still thinks long distance phone calls are expensive, I sometimes notice myself acting as though between film and processing costs I’m paying $2 a shot. Of course, it ain’t so anymore, and that’s a good thing, because more photos means more good photos. For various reasons, you’ll get A LOT more keepers by capturing a solid handful of versions of a shot than just a quick one or two. Don’t be lazy.
  8. Exploit a golden opportunity. If the light is sweet and the scene is special, loosen up, sharpen up, and take full advantage; concentrate; go crazy; empty your clip. Pro photographers sit like hunters in duck blinds. At the moment of truth, they unload both barrels. Then they put away their camera till another right moment emerges. (FYI, it’s almost all about lighting; I promise that 90% of your best photos will be taken in the morning or late afternoon.) You can always delete images, but you can’t recreate a rare moment. So go for it. Yeah, people might grumble when you say “This is a really nifty scene…let’s just take a few more here,” but they’ll thank you 20 years later when that photo’s still framed on the mantlepiece.

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“I love boobies”: 24 hours in the Galápagoshttp://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2012/09/i-love-boobies-24-hours-in-the-galapagos/#utm_source=feed&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2012/09/i-love-boobies-24-hours-in-the-galapagos/#comments Tue, 25 Sep 2012 20:23:30 +0000 Jeremy http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/?p=2389

A blue-footed boobie holds a pose. “You have to tip him, you know” I told a lady photographer.

 

The travel agent in the hotel lobby laughed at me. “Yeah, you can do it,” she said, “but it’s crazy.” I was in Guayaquil, Ecuador, for business, with some time to spare — just enough time for an overnight trip to the Galápagos Islands, a place people normally go for a week or two. It was ten minutes to 6pm, closing time, and the flight was first thing the next morning. I had to decide.

“Let’s do it,” I told her.

Frankly, although I made the appearance of hemming and hawing before plunking down my credit card, it was a foregone conclusion. The outcome was determined at birth, I think, for this is how travel is for me. If I so much as get in the orbit of some extraordinary place or event, I predictably succumb to its gravitational pull. And I’ve yet to regret my impulsiveness.

So I’ve now gone where The Beagle and the puritanical genius Darwin have gone and can briefly convey to you my impressions.

And the main thing is this: visiting the Galápagos is like being behind the bars at the zoo. This isn’t my turn of phrase — I picked it up from a Louisiana man with a 400m zoom lens I was talking to at the giant tortoise reserve — but it is my sentiment exactly.

The thing about the animals in the Galápagos, on top of the fact that you won’t see 30% of them anywhere but here, is that they don’t run away. I heard a few explanations for this, but none convinced me as to why, precisely, Darwin’s finches think nothing of landing on you, and the smooth black iguanas sit unfussed at your feet, spitting and stinking up the joint. To be so close to wild animals in their world, on their terms, is fun. It is more fun, in fact, than you’d think it would be.

On top of the thrill of these close encounters with exotic creatures, I had the sense that the 737 that flew me to Baltra airport, the island’s main ingress point, from Guayaquil, the only airport you can fly to the Galápagos from, wasn’t so much an airplane as a time machine. And when I climbed down the gangway, I set foot in some other era or epoch of geological time — the Pleistocene, perhaps (whatever that is) or the Mesozoic.

There are bizarro trees — especially the cacti with trunks like a douglas fir — and the famously overlarge “E.T.”-headed tortoises, which look as prehistoric as anything alive in 2012 possibly could. The most famous of these fellas was the one they called Lonesome George, but early this summer he “reached the end of his lifecycle,” as his minder put it, making headlines around the world; I read his obituary in The Economist myself, which quite possibly was what planted the seed of this side trip in my mind in the first place.

The heir to George’s celebrity tortoise throne is, clearly, Super Diego, or Diego El Profesor as he’s also known. Diego was returned to his home islands to live at the Darwin Research Station from the San Diego Zoo some years ago. He’s 130 years old, but of course has a bevy of much younger girlfriends. Basically, he’s Hef in a gran tortuga shell. And unlike George, who despite being the last of his line of Pinta tortoises, stubbornly refused to mate, the Española-type tortoise Diego is padre to a slew of offspring. Moreover, he earned his nickname “El Profesor” because he taught the two other blokes in the enclosure how to do it: they’d been slacking in their filial obligations, but since Diego’s arrival, the three have collectively sired some 1,800 bebés.

As the guide explained in deeply clinical terms, “Diego came in from California with his surfboard under his arm, a gringo accent, a laidback attitude. And the señoritas were like, hey there.”

Not even the homeland of evolution, it seems, where the birds and bees are the stuff of legend, is immune to the charm of a golden boy from the Golden State.

Tortuga Bay
Iguanas spit salt water.
Note the bizarro trees in the background.
The bark of the cactus is hard like...bark.
Ceviche de pulpo (octopus)
Side street in Puerto Ayora.
Pelican on main street at rush hour.
Diego El Profesor draws a crowd.
Also known as Super Diego, he's 130 years old and was first picked up in 1905.
You can hear their breathing sounds. They sound like sighs.
The male's penis *is* its tail.
Taken without a zoom. They're not remotely skittish. You just stroll right up to them.
As you see, in their own configuration they're about human sized.
Chelin from the airplane -- a science-minded gal -- freaks out on seeing her first finch at the airport.
And who doesn't, really?
A blue-footed boobie holds a pose at Tortuga Bay. "You have to tip him, you know" I told a lady photographer.

Unimpressive top speed of a Galapagos tortoise from Jeremy Hildreth on Vimeo.

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Adventure in Timor 5: A land untamed and untaintedhttp://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2012/09/adventure-in-timor-5-a-land-untamed-and-untainted/#utm_source=feed&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2012/09/adventure-in-timor-5-a-land-untamed-and-untainted/#comments Sat, 15 Sep 2012 16:57:21 +0000 Jeremy http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/?p=516 A land untamed and untainted (Source: GERTIL)

A land untamed and untainted (Source: GERTIL)

Day 9

Back at the Hotel Timor, I rang my main island contact from the front desk to make arrangements for my last two days. ‘You’ll never guess what I have on my desk,’ she said. ‘Your mobile phone’. I couldn’t believe it. It’s an expensive phone, the sale of which would supplement most Timorese incomes considerably. I hadn’t expected to see it ever again.
________

Setsuko (of Atauro bikini fame) is well-connected and her goodbye dinner was attended not only by her friends from the University of Hawaii (where a number of Timorese students are on scholarship) but by their friends, who are friends in high places indeed – an MP who’s the son of a former resistance leader, an adviser to the prime minister, a lawyer in the justice department, et al.

Sitting around a beachside table in front of the Victoria Restaurant, we ate excellent local food – particularly the fish. Talk turned inevitably to the plight of the country. Scott (the UN gentleman from One More Bar) talked about how proud he is of the UN’s involvement here (and correctly pointed out: “Timor has managed to hold the world’s attention for a long time now,” which certainly says something good about the place).

Harold proffered that Timor has been chosen by God to teach the world profound lessons. Jose related some recent exploit of Foreign Minister Ramos-Horta’s and laughed with admiration at the cleverness of it. And somebody poured me another glass of red wine. Xanana wrote a short entry for the Lonely Planet guide where he explains to the would-be visitor: ‘Sometimes we recount the most horrific stories with smiles on our faces. Don’t be alarmed – it is our way of coping, the strength of a people who dared dream of freedom’.

I could tell I was witnessing something of this strength at that table that night. The laughter, hopefulness and all-round cheerfulness were made even more poignant when Setsuko whispered in my ear that Jose’s surname is Lobato. His father was Nicolau Lobato, first leader of the resistance and a folk hero ever since he was killed in 1978 in a fire fight with Indonesian forces, his death clearing the way for the rise of Xanana. The national airport and at least one major Dili street are named after him. Jose’s mother Isabel was publicly executed in December 1975 on the first day of the Indonesian invasion. All of this ran through my mind as I looked across the table at Jose, who cannot be more than about 35. He could hardly have known his parents.

Once again I felt humbled by the burdens the Timorese have borne and the dignity and resilience with which they have borne them. They could be forgiven for holding a grudge against Americans, Australians, Japanese, Indonesians, etc. – those at whose hands they have suffered, indirectly or directly. But they don’t, and it’s remarkable, incredible even. “We have forgotten”, said Harold with incomprehensible magnanimity, “how they killed our mothers and raped our sisters, because we need to go forward”.

In Bali the week before, someone – a Javanese – had said to me, “I don’t understand those Timorese. Why did they fight? It would have been so much easier not to.” Perhaps. But for the Timorese, spirited warriors at heart, such a pacific course – however attractive it might have been for some – was unthinkable.

Day 10

Scurrying around Dili in a taxi, I picked up some Timor coffee for a souvenir, and a couple of books at the Xanana Reading Room, and then headed to the airport. Along the way, we passed the everyday sights of Dili: Chinese-owned electronic stores, men selling oranges strung from sticks and countless open drains.

The drains, I reflected, are like the ones Adolph Ng hides in at the climax of The Redundancy of Courage, Timothy Mo’s gripping novel set in a thinly disguised Timor, a foreign-occupied place Mo calls Danu. I had finished reading the book a week before and quickly forgotten about it. But now I remembered, and it hit me full on. What a story it was…what a story this country is!

The more I knew about Timor, I realised, and the more I saw of it, the more interesting and worthwhile its story became for me. In turn – and more than in other places – what I read about this nascent country, its history, culture and geography, enhanced my experience as a visitor. Timor, I concluded, as much as it could be a trip you took on a plane, is also a journey you take in your mind, your heart and your imagination.

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Mongolia and mehttp://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2012/09/mongolia-and-me/#utm_source=feed&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/2012/09/mongolia-and-me/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2012 13:45:19 +0000 Jeremy http://www.jeremyhildreth.com/?p=2092

As Chico Escuela would say, “Mongolia been berry, berry good to me.”

And so it transpires that I have spent about six months of the past 12 living in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of the independent country of Mongolia, once known as Outer Mongolia to distinguish it from Inner Mongolia, which is a part of modern-day China.

Mongolia was once part of the Soviet sphere, and so living there has afforded me the chance to fulfil a long-time fantasy of residing in a Soviet flat. That’s been a perquisite of living there — I find the whole dodgy hot water thing amusing, believe it or not — but it’s not why I’ve chosen to spend so much time in this country.

In fact, I’ve been working on a project with Mongolia’s exotic fiber industry. Mongolia produces a goodly share of the world’s raw cashmere, and also such luxurious novelties as rare platinum (light grey) yak and baby Bactrian camel. (Bactrians have two humps, FYI, and they fun to ride because you can nestle between the humps and hold on for dear life to the fore one.)

While much of my professional life is devoted to working with brands *of* places, I’m arguably more fascinated in brands from places. And so having the chance to develop a brand identity and strategy for Mongolia’s cashmere and exotic fiber export sector has been right in my wheelhouse, as they say.

The work is ongoing, but I’m extremely proud of what my team and I have accomplished so far. I posted a well-illustrated story of the Mongolian Noble Fibre brand and its creation a couple of weeks ago, and I noticed yesterday that Twist magazine (what a great name for a yarn industry rag!) posted an article about our work.

The thing I like most about working in Mongolia are the strange adventures that unfailingly occur when I’m there. Some you may need to read about in my posthumously published autobiography, but a recent one I can tell you about is the Bodio’s catalogue.

On my most recent trip to UB, I oversaw the creation of a brochure for Mongolia’s premier processor and manufacturer of yak down products, a company called Bodio’s of Mongolia. I served as art director, copywriter, layout editor — and fashion model (a career first for me). Considering the whole thing was done inside of a week, the results are groundbreaking for Mongolian marketing (e.g., it’s the first time Westerners and Mongolians have featured as models in a Mongolian company’s promotional material). View the Bodio’s brochure here.

While we were out in Terelj National Park shooting the photos for the catalogue, we got to eat marmot. I made a two-minute video of the “moment of truth” — gashing open the belly and drinking the juice — and posted it to Vimeo. Note: it’s not as gross as I made it sound in that last sentence, and the background scenery is lovely and exemplary of Mongolia.

Marmots carry bubonic plague, but I think I’m okay; it’s been a week now; how long is the gestation period, anyone know? I’ve got a box of Cipro lying around somewhere, just in case.

Eating a marmot in Mongolia from Jeremy Hildreth on Vimeo.

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