Suck the Marrow Out of Life

Vision uncompromised by negativity!

High Flying!

Recently I went to a few places that have blown my mind away in terms of the vision needed to create them.

It started in Shanghai, well a little outside, with Naked and how this simple South African guy managed to build a resort in rural Shanghai. He raised $300m, he built and eco-friendly game lodge type of resort (without the animals) and it has become one of the most successful ventures of its type in China. Imagine the balls it took for him to venture out into rural nowhere and imagine creating something like this?

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Then last week (this was written a while ago but not posted)  I went back to SA and so decided to stop off in the Emirates.

After getting the hell out of Dubai at sunrise, the metropolis scenery subsided and it melted into typical desert for about an hour. As it began to change to white beach sand and sheer cliffs of hard rock, like nothing I’ve seen before and I cannot explain. Just miles and miles of rocky, bare, desolate cliffs. We began to climb into the mountain and I started to think that this guy was now taking me into deep dark Oman to be sold for body parts.

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As I reached the top of the mountain and could peak over the other side I saw something that blew my mind completely. A bay of crystal blue water, and a desert camp build completely out of the surrounding mountain rocks that blended so well into the landscape it looked like it had been in that spot since the beginning of time. Immediately I started to wonder how someone managed to drive out into the middle of the desert for two hours crossing cliff after cliff and then decide to pick this spot to put up a completely self-sustaining, Eco friendly resort.

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After a few days in this paradise I headed back into the ‘typical’ desert.

Sparse surroundings, beige sand and dunes for as far as you could see. Even in the air-conned car I started to believe there was no end in sight but low and behold an oasis.

Again how this was built, how its maintained and how they manage to get things like Bose sound systems, Nepresso pods and on and on into the middle of desert no where just flaws me.

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Then returning to Dubai that is supposed to be impressive I was completely underwhelmed, well except for this magical beast, a dirty vodka martini on the 120 something floor was much needed. In Shanghai there are many buildings of similar sizes but because they are all together you don’t really get the massive impact of this Burj.

I came away believing Dubai downtown was almost a cop out, I mean building a hotel in a city is easy if you think about it. If you have the money you can build anything really. You design, you pay and you build, its that simple really. While our stay at the Ritz was exceptional as it is in most instances at the Ritz, but after being in the middle of nowhere and appreciating the execution of running a five star resort with literally no connection to the ‘outside world’, I was underwhelmed.

The vision, the balls and the gamble of building a resort far away, difficult to get to and at such a high level is incredible. I mean I think I have a decent ability to see things before they exist, I’m not talking the next Apple invention but in my field I can see evolution faster than most, but the long term commitment to an idea that these people have executed so sensationally just blew me away. I thank whatever being that people like this exist in the world so that I can fly half way around the world, lie on a massive beach lounger, put on a Bluetooth headset and watch a cinema screen attached to a boat on the beach at midnight :)

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The people with this kind of vision, they are the ones who truly create magic!

 

 

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Some experiences in China I just have to share

The wonders of China . . .

Mostly every day in China feels like an episode of Punk’d but after two years of being here most of it doesn’t really raise my eyebrows anymore. Having said that every now and again there are some experiences that just seem to blow my mind. Right now on a flight from Shanghai to Macau one is happening.

So I’m busy working on in this airplane (it’s another weekend of tasting menus, pretending I’m 21 again, lights, martinis and most importantly THE ROLLING STONES.

So the plane is an hour late, but this is common place in China, in fact so much so that now when I get on to the plane I sit down and start working because I’m pretty much guaranteed to get in at least an hour of peaceful work before anything starts to move.

As I begin to type away heavily into some random presentation or email I see out of the corner of my eye a 20 something year old Chinese girl, we shall refer to her as Princess, applying hand cream to her hands out of a tub, scooping out one glob of glop after another with her pointer finger and rubbing each and every square inch of her hands. This has gone on for the entire wait on the ground until her hands are so saturated with moisture that as we take off she presses the ‘call button’ incessantly until the seatbelt lights go off and an airhostess comes. She asks for one of those alcohol soaked hand towels in the little foil packet (yes I’m in economy class for these two hours and the hand towels are those thin antiseptic ones not the magical preheated fluffy face clothes) anyway I digress.

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She now gets one of the afore mentioned towels and barks at the air-hostess that she needs more, the airhostess scuttles off to find the Princess creep show more. In the meantime Princess is not trying desperately to tear open the slippery silver packet but she may as well have lubed up her entire body, dived down an ice sled run and then try stop midway using her baby toenails as breaks. Airhostess returns with a pile of clothes and Princess tells her to open them, airhostess opens 5 of them and Princess snatches them back.

She then proceed to use them to wipe off the grease on the now saturated hands, not just the excess but like lady fucking Macbeth out damn spotting until I swear she has taken off a layer of skin. In the meantime between each scrubbing session she has a bag now on her lap that perhaps could house Revlon fucking R&D department and between scrubs she is squirreling around in there like winter is approaching and she lost her last acorn.

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Now sufficiently degreased she takes to her finger nails, clipping each one five or so times so the million little shards of keratin have littered the plane like confetti and she is satisfied. Thankfully at this point she has to begrudgingly release her bag to the floor as the food arrives.

She brings her now perfectly groomed hands up to her mouth grasping the airline food container and using her spoon to shovel the contents into her tilted back head at a rate faster than I’ve seen POWs do after coming out of Taliban torture camps. That lasted all of three minutes.

After all we must not distract from the mission of beauty perfection in the two hours we have to Macau the city of celebrities, stars and glamour.

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Bag back on lap and squirreling continues at a more frantic pace than before. Out comes eyes drops, mystery liquid and a face mask. A FUCKING FACE MASK! Eye drops applied I watch in utter disbelief as she puts on a face mask as if it’s a Wednesday afternoon at the salon with the girls.

She now barks at the airhostess something I don’t understand, the airhostess returns with a frequent flyer membership application. Needless to say after being on the ground for an hour and in the air for an hour with this bizarrely frantic human being, I’m never flying Air Macau again, I’m never even going to Macau again for fear of having to spend another minute next to this bizarre creature.

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Just another day in China that makes pretty much every moment feel like a cross between Punk’d and a Japanese game show.

 

 

 

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The Soldiers . . .

Bucket List

When I was younger I went to see the Great Wall. I was about 8 or 9 and the impact on me was profound. I never forgot it and recently I went back again with some of my best friends, needless to say I was as much in awe at 30 as I was at 8.

What I wanted to know is does it live up to its hype, you’ve seen so many photos of it that you feel like the memory of being there has been recorded already. What I wanted to know was, would it still take my breath away standing on The Walls again, and it did, emphatically!

The Terracotta soldiers are one of those places too, one of the places you’ve seen so many times you would think you had been before and so I was itching to get there to see them.

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When you walk into the main hall the vastness of it is immense, the pictures don’t do it justice but it is gigantic. These rows upon rows of soldiers waiting for after life battle makes you understand the power and narcissism the Empower at the time had (coincidentally he was the one who build most of the wall as well).

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This dude built 70 square kilometers of everything he had in life in clay for when he died because he believed that he would then have them in his afterlife. He them, after decade of artists and builders slaving away, killed them all so no one would know about his Terracotta army and come destroy them.

After getting over the enormity of these hangers and then trying to understand this is merely a tiny sample of what has been excavated (the government, rightly so, in not excavating until they have the technology to ensure preservation) my cynicism started.

It just all seemed a little too perfect, the farmers who was looking for water found the outermost corner of the tombs (the ones still alive now sit in the gift shop everyday just smoking, signing books and taking your money). These neatly packaged clay soldiers, most perfectly formed and then a few broken ones lying around, at the back the ‘hospital’ that doesn’t ever seem to change.

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Maybe that’s cynical people feel like when they see things that are inexplicable, and if anything this is that. Its mysterious vastness yet altogether a little too well coordinated to be from thousands of years ago. Having said that this guy built the great wall so why the hell not 70 square kilometers of army tombs.

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Don’t get me wrong, it is bucket list stuff. It’s magnificent, creepy and exciting all at the same time and I now have an archer in my lounge permanently but I’m realizing more and more in China the things that are supposed to impact me the most are far outshone by those I didn’t even know exited, cue the Leshan Buddha!

 

 

 

 

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Why Venezuela right now, is a fight for all of us . . .

International

It’s funny, as a generation who saw the birth of social media, Wikipedia, WikiLeaks & Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and so on we truly believe we are free from oppression of freedom of speech. We believe civil rights are generally kept in check by the fact that one photo on twitter can cause the Egyptian president to be ousted, Gaddafi to be beaten to death in the streets or show us what a nuclear reactor leaking looks like and what devastation the earthquake in Haiti caused. We know everything, we see it all in an instant! We know whatever events happen either big or small in each and every deep dark corner of the world, that’s the power that social media has given us.

What a dream world we live in. The truth is we all serve at the feet of the respective governments that rule us. If and when a time arises for those governments to feel threatened believe me they will shut your freedom of speech down so fast you won’t believe it. I’m no anarchist, I’ve got no complaints about the government that rules the country I live in (my home country is a different story however), in fact I’m pretty sure I could make a powerful argument for why socialism / communism is the best way to rule a country for all its people but I do want you to acknowledge the sick truth is we are not free, not one of us.

Think I’m joking? Try and tell me what’s going on in Venezuela right now?

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Millions of students across the country have taken to the streets to protest a corrupt dictatorship and through government ordered death squads they are being beaten and killed in neighborhoods and streets all around the country. The videos seem like something out of Apartheid South Africa, funny, another place and time state controlled media allowed atrocities to take place almost daily.

You think you and your country are so different, cling to your false sense of security.

Right now in Venezuela the people who are supposed to keep order and protect its citizens are the ones that killing innocent young students for peacefully protesting against corruption and theft by the government. What a fucked up reversal of roles. Where is social media? Where are the tweets, the Facebook messages to the rest of the world to swoop in and help? Where are the camera crews that are watching every corner of the earth for a story? Where is the rest of the world to step in and intervene when human rights atrocities are being committed against the innocent? It’s almost amusing the fairytale we all live in sometimes.

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The truth is the state owns the media, they kicked out all foreign journalists and they have banned Twitter and Facebook. There’s your freedom of speech and while the country is in an independent news blackout, they are oppressing and killing their own people to continue their governmental rape of the country, fuck at least the students have the balls to fight and die for a future they believe their children deserve. In South Africa we have all the news and social media we could ever want and our president stole $20m to build himself a new private home.

These kids fighting on the streets across Venezuela are heroes risking their lives for honesty, truth and above all just behavior from their ‘elected’ leaders and we sit around the world with our collective power of voice doing nothing to stop it. There’s your freedom of speech!

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You want to make a difference, you want to believe that we no longer live in a world where governments can be run as corrupt and immoral as they want with no consequence? Then do something! Share a story, post a statement, and share the pain of those kids who are not being heard. Don’t allow this madness to continue just because it’s not happening to you or your family. Feel the desperation of knowing that no one is coming to help but yet have no alternative to keep fighting.

Help free Venezuela, because regardless of how much or little you think you can do, we, collectively do have the power, we collectively can, every now and again when the situation demands it, stand together and use our voices to say enough! Enough disgraceful behavior, WE will not take it. It’s time to help the youth of Venezuela push back.

Just have a look at the video below and go see the incredible images as always from Boston Big Picture.

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Where does greatness come from?

Ingenius business

If you were sitting in someone’s garage, which was also their office, and they told you they were going to build the world’s biggest online retailer 20 years ago you probably would have laughed a little, told them they were dreaming and left. If that garage were in China you probably would have tried to shepherd the person to the local mental institution.

Jack Ma or Ma Yun, was that guy, a humble school teacher who decided that he was going to fight an online war with silicon valley that would ultimately make him one of the world richest human beings (and me one of the worlds happiest). You see Jack created a business called Alibaba, which most of you will have never heard of and probably will scoff at the stupid name, but if I told you ONE of its subsidiaries on one specific day last year did 20 billion USD in sales I may peak your attention.

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Let me put it to you this was, Jack Ma created, among other things I have to say clearly, TMall & Taobao. The other businesses are huge B to B online setups that I don’t really use so my love affair is with the above two.

If I asked you to look around your desk, office, house, car or wherever you are reading this, and you see all the different products that make up the world around you? Every single one of those you can buy on TB or TM, not only that you can get them in a million options, sizes, colours, brands (real & fake). Jack Ma created the bastard step child of Ebay & Tabao with person to person selling as well brands to individual selling. He created the market where pretty much half a billion Chinese consumers buy most of their goods. Not only that but they, depending on where you live, arrive for me in Shanghai the next day.

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If I had to tell you the list of real and fake items I have bought on Taobao ranging from crystal glass, to Bose sound systems, to TVs, to Martini cocktail toothpicks, to Bonsai tree fertilizer, to a Nespresso machine and its pods (both real & fake), to a bicycle, to knives, and on and on and on (oh and a 20 square meter home gym training mat?!) You get the picture.

Imagine living in a place where any single thing you want you can get online through reliable sellers and if you’re not happy with it or there is something wrong you send it back immediately and get your money back (I did this with one Nespresso machine & one wrong size pair of GAP jeans, other than that not one) and it arrives at your home or office the net day. I was trying to buy the Tim Knoakes book in South Africa and those absolute idiots at Exclusive Books to almost 2 months to deliver it IN SOUTH AFRICA!

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Jack Ma is a far more impressive human being than I can explain and like TENCENT (Wechat), Xiomi and others he is now moving out of China and he will do so with the same ruthless efficiency and creative genius he has done here. Alibabas IPO in Hong Kong is likely to make Facebooks look juvenile (as it should because this is a real fucking business) and from then on I suggest the rest of the world best WATCH out for the crocodile of the Yangste.

I’ve been waiting a while to write something about Jack and TB / Tmall but with this on the way I thought now is the perfect time! Enjoy!

 

 

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What Madiba really wanted for us all . . .

Local is / is not lekker

I’ve been reading as many articles, eulogies, letters of praise and the like about Madiba, his life and peoples relationships with him. I guess it’s my way of feeling more connected to him, understanding him better and perhaps feeling a little more a part of the legacy he wanted.

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Most of the things I’ve read I knew or are general knowledge but every now and again there are some of the things that I wanted to learn and understand. The piece written in TIME, Called Mandela. Protestor. Prisoner, Peacemaker (you really should read it) by Richard Stengel, who wrote the Long Walk To Freedom, is incredibly interesting. I keep thinking of Shakespeare’s quote ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them’ over and over while reading this, because this essentially is one of the greatest examples of it.

It seems in a different time and space Madiba would have been a small time rural lawyer unconcerned with anything like the global icon he became. It appears that as he progressed through life the simple basic human feeling of being treated fairly, or rather the lack thereof in his life pushed him to become the political activist that blossomed into the statesman we all loved so dearly.

It’s an interesting lesson and I think summed up so well by Samuel Dash who was an American lawyer and one of the first to visit Madiba in prison. He said ‘I felt that I was in the presence not of a guerilla fighter or radical ideologue, but a head of state.’ This was in the early 80s before anyone could have really imagined what he would become. It shows us that so often we think categorical change needs to come from radicals, extremists, militants or die-hards. The truth has been proven that great, mature, measured and the most impactful progressive change comes from men who believe in something simple like freedom or fairness.

Perhaps the reason I grow so angry so quickly about South Africa’s current state is that like Madiba, and I in no way intend to compare myself to this demi god but rather to identify with one of his feelings, the simple act of unfairness drives me mad. My whole life, the only thing that in life, sport, relationships etc has ever made me mad, raging mad is fundamental unfairness. The rest I guess is part of life but when people can behave in a fair manner and choose not to, that I understand as a reason to fight!

I realize given South Africa’s past there needs to be a period of adjustment but what we are seeing now is so far from that. The blatant stealing, corruption and greed of our president and his family and friends is enough to make one want to bury their head in their hands and weep for what would seem a wasted war waged by the freedom fighters of the 80s and 90s. They didn’t give their freedom to have the smallest few stealing from the masses driving them ever further into poverty.

The reason I fill with rage every time I see a case of corruption dropped or swept under the carpet is that most of us work, build, grind and sweat to make money and yet the political elite seem to just steal it, that’s not fair. The reason I rage is that poverty is on the rise and education on the decline and the elite are simply stealing the future from our children and our country and pissing it away on booze and fast cars. What a nation we have become.

AS I read I feel my hands shaking with anger that this man gave so much, restrained so much and created so much for a nation that has just spat in his face and continued gorging at the buffet of corruption. You disgust me, all of you.

He didn’t want praise, he didn’t want fireworks, he didn’t want fame and he certainly didn’t want riches. He wanted a nation that was fair and free. I shudder to think how he would feel about what we have become as a nation and it makes me furious, I guess I just can’t believe it doesn’t make everyone else.

 

 

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Do more, see more, be more!

High Flying!

When I wrote my new year’s post a few days ago I expressed what I expected of myself for this coming year. Like I said I’m not one for fun fluffy New Year’s resolutions because I think, in general resolutions, are stupid. The concept of waiting until the end of the year to make changes you think are necessary now is just poor humaning!

Never the less I had a few things I wanted to focus on in the coming year. I thought I had them all pretty well mapped out and then I saw this video floating around social media and it hit me that I’ve left off the one I’m trying to achieve the most.

Have a look . . .

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no action junky I don’t want to bungee jump, base jump, parachute, fly in a squirrel suite between mountains (well this one I lie, I would f&%$ing love to do this!) but you get the idea. What it did make me think of are those moments in life that make you feel like something inside of you jumped!

I want to feel those more. I want to make points in meetings above my pay-grade, I want to feel butterflies of nervous excitement. I want to see things that will make my heart sing and my jaw drop. I want to feel the excitement of a kid opening a present on his birthday or running towards the ice cream van outside, like there’s nothing in life that could compare to the feeling of whats about to happen! I want to feel more excitement, feel more moments of raising your hands in the air in absolute triumph and joy! I want to create more moments that my heart sings because it cannot possibly be any happier.

I wrote a post about experiencing travel as opposed to just doing it. I want this year to be filled with experiences of travel. Going to places and experiencing things that are not just on a list, but on a bucket list. I want to see and feel it all!

I want to reach more pinnacles, feel more uncomfortable, feel more anxious, more out of place, more intrusive, sometimes more stupid and always like I’m experiencing rather than floating along.

I never want to just simply ebb and flow with the tide.

It’s easy to say, very easy, the difficult part is experiencing it, feeling it and living it but the end, in my experience has always justified the means when it comes to these things!

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Someone, probably a writer at hallmark, much wiser and cheesier than I said, ‘Life is not measured by the breaths we take but the moments that take your breath away.’

I want to lose my breath as much as possible in 2014!

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I love being a sports fan . . .

Sport

Why?

I don’t believe anything in life can replace the teachings of playing and watching sport. The romance of it, the hardships, the disappointments and the moments of elation. When you watch your favorite team, watch your country play a sport it takes on a new meaning for me. I love myself in it, in the soap opera and the journey of a game. I love every second of it.

I guess with age comes perspective and its less about winning everything and more about appreciating the winning along with the rest, because that’s life after all. Doesn’t mean I like losing, in fact I hate it but it does mean I can appreciate the lessons learned from losing more than when I was younger.

As I’m sure you know I’m a massive Manchester United fan. Today as much as ever, seventh on the log, out of the league cup and the FA Cup and in ‘crisis’. I will watch United and believe in them every time they step on to the field. I will respect their players and the leadership that guides them because building and creating a team comes with time, comes with sacrifice and comes with hardship, people forget that in the world of bought victories and instant gratification.

I just finished watching ‘The class of 92’. The movie about the team of Manchester United kids who won the youth cup and then the famous six who went on to be senior Treble Winners.

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What a time for United, what a magic experience to watch the men grow up and what a privilege to be able to watch them for 10 odd years together. I forgot how special they were, how special those moments were. When I watch them again I go cold, I get Goosebumps and I start crying. It was sport at its best. It was the romance of it at its best.

Six kids who grew up as friends playing for and basically creating one of the greatest footballing legacies born out of the tragedy and heartbreak of the Busby Babes. Its Hollywood script worthy without question, spose Becks will play himself!

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I remember those 10 days. The league then the FA Cup final then the Champions league Final in Barcelona.

I remember the moments of that campaign, the semifinal against Arsenal. Keane getting sent off, Phil Neville giving away the penalty that Schmeichel saved and Giggs coming on and carving up the Arsenal side to score, it was destiny. It was guided by a higher power.

I remember that Champions league semi when Scholes got booked and knew he would miss the final. He was my favorite player in the world. I was devastated. I remember that final, the colors of Munich, the red of United. The shield badge over their hearts. I dreamed of being on that field.

I remember watching at my parents’ house, the whole house was asleep and I was sitting on the very edge of a 10 meter l shaped couch, I couldn’t lie down, I could sit still. I remember those two goals going in and I remember that feeling of absolute elation. Imagine being on that field, that night, with six guys you had played with for the last ten years and celebrating together.

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Sport is special in ways that are inexplicable, that team was driven by a force I cannot comprehend and it was a privilege to watch it, to be in some way a part of it. To relive it through this documentary was magic, to re-experience the personalities, the players, those moments and the feelings. It makes me appreciate being a fan of the club I have been for so long.

Watch the trailer and tell me you don’t feel the same!

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It’s funny what triggers a memory, triggers a feeling and a rush of thoughts.

High Flying!

I was in Harbin for the ice festival this weekend (ill post on at some point because it was mind-blowing again). And if you have ever heard of this place you will understand that it’s a comfortable -30 degrees which means no matter how tough you think you are there are some clothing requirements.

There’s a specific noise ski pants make when you walk, the chafing of the fabric against itself. Last night while I was walking back to my room after a hot pot dinner in an igloo, followed by a few gluweins and shots of vodka in the ice bar, my wife turned to me and said, ‘I really miss this sound.’ in reference to the pants. If you haven’t been skiing or don’t know what I mean you will think I’ve gone slightly off my rocker but bare with me!

All of a sudden a whack of memories came rushing back. You see for as long as I’ve been alive my family has been privileged enough to go skiing together once a year. It’s a tradition my grandparents had and one of the greatest ones my family have. Obviously with growing families, spread across the world it becomes harder and harder. Kids can’t get out of school, it’s far too travel, there’s work etc etc. I haven’t been for two years now.

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All of  sudden I missed the years of squeezing feet into ski boots, and then the feeling of elation taking them off at the end of the day. I missed a drink up in the mountains on a sunny day, the smell of the kit room, coming down for a glass of champagne before dinner in absolute Swiss lobby lounge civility. I missed the smell of the rickety old bowling alley in the basement of one of our favorite hotels. I missed shared moments of perfect blue skies on the slopes and blizzarding days of not being able to see five feet in front of you. I missed perfectly executed jumps and massive tumbles into powder. I missed gearing up layers apon layers only to have to undo them all just to have a pee. I missed bratwurst and rosti with Tommy Senf, i missed Ricola sweets my dad for some reason carries every second of every day, I missed Rivella blou, rod and groen.

I missed being with my family.

I missed sharing laughs and smiles and squabbles, I missed being a family, how we were, how always used to be.

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I missed the shared moments of talking on ski lifts, fighting down ski slopes, sneaking a smoke, racing my brothers down black slopes and pub crawling down to the bottom at the end of a long day. I missed these moments so much and almost immediately realized that in life moments like these so often go under appreciated until you realize how rare they are. Im not sure if with time comes a certain amount of perspective or if you just realize the importance when the moments become less, you realize they are finite in number and therefor you long for the ones past and hope there will be more in future.

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The simple point is, life in its definition is finite, don’t take it for granted, not any of it. Guess it took a simple sound to remind me of that fact. Funny how deep the simple noise of ski pants rubbing together can impact . . .

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The year that was and the year that may be . . .

Uncategorized

2013 was one of the most difficult professional years I’ve ever had and perhaps the most rewarding personally but no doubt was a year for growing. After the post that started this year I thought it proper to sum up the year that was 2013.

It’s funny, my eldest brother, in talking about our business was comparing growth to his children and how when you are a child, when you grow, you get growing pains. Growing is hard, whether it be in a business, as a person, or in a relationship. It’s not easy to grow, it doesn’t just happen and it certainly isn’t our default way of being.

So why do we grow?

We grow because we need to, we grow because we must evolve and I guess we grow because we just can’t allow ourselves to stay the same. We have a great quote that is on one of our corporate videos that says ‘And the day came when the risk to remain in a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”. For me, at least this year, I fundamentally believe this is true. Not because of any kind of duckling to swan crap, but the thought of staying still or staying the same seems more painful than the idea of being able to grow, to evolve and to become what you believe you can become.

This year hurt, it was frustrating and I haven’t felt so bi-polar in my work environment ever before. I had highs so high that I sensed I was starting to create something on an international scale, something I’ve always dreamt I was capable of. Then I had times and periods where I felt like even getting out of bed in the morning was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do.

But I grew, I grew a lot as a person, in my relationship, with new friends, and in the understanding of Chinese people, their language and their culture. I grew in stature, in self-confidence and my ability to be comfortable with who I am and in my own skin in any situation, whether that’s a product of being out here or whether it’s just perspective that comes with age (at 31 I suppose there’s a long way to go) but I think it’s something that if you know me, you would certainly think I don’t struggle with. Funny the layers and defenses you build to compensate for what you believe to be weaknesses.

2013 was a fantastic year of travel. I am fortunate that I have the opportunity to see amazing places both with work and personally, I’m lucky that I have the greatest partner to share these travel times with and I think it’s important to take these opportunities. As I write this I’m sitting in a tiny wooden old house, in a village in Yunnan China called Shuhe, not a word of English around and the warm homegrown oolong tea nursing my ailing hangover as I listen to the Chinese version of The Eagles Hotel California. This is just one of a million of the most surreal experiences I’ve had in the last year.

I started the year lighting a Thai lantern with my wife (and one or two others) and thinking about the year to come on a beach party in Patong which has been my middle brother’s home for the last few years (he wins at life).

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We went to The Racha to relax for a few days. Braai on our porch, swim overlooking the beach and recharged completely!

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Then the idea of Chinese travel became important and we started with Harbin Ice Festival, and so began the things that blew my mind this year! None though managed to freeze me quite as much! I saw sculptures and cities built out of ice, snow and lights which just blew me away. I got to see a tiger for the first time albeit in a sanctuary. If you want a taste of how incredibly interesting and majestic this time is in this northern city of China, read this!

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Feb was home for a magnificent bachelor’s party and wedding! To go back to the farm to see my family for a little bit of time and to have a very quick catch-up with friends in JHB. Seems like every time I get to go home now, I dont have enough time to give.

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March was back to Thailand for STREAM or what is known as WPPs anti conference and to hang out with my brother for a day!

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I learnt that Chinese New Year dinners are not to be fucked with and when you have to do one with each sales team around the country (in SA that means 5 or 8) in China that means as many as your schedule allows and how long your body can hold out!

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I realized what living in a big city means with my first ever Grand Prix shared with the only F1 expert I know who flew in from SA, and motor show, both of which left me salivating. Then there were a multitude of bits and pieces during this chaotic month that can barely be squeezed in here!

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After April things started to kick into high gear, first to Naked Retreats, the lodge type experience developed by a South African entrepreneur in rural Zhejiang.

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Another bucket list check was Japan for Cherry blossoms. I got to take my wife to stay at two, over 100 year old Ryokans that I’ve been wanting to do for years, being fed traditional 20 course Japanese breakfasts and dinners and walking these magical blossom lined streets and canals. The food, the people, the places just absolutely blew me away. I have to say Japan is one of my favorite places on earth and at this time of year it is something so surreal that you constantly feel like you are walking through a painting of sorts. These few pics cannot begin to explain it, go have a look at all of them!

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Then to Chengdu & to see my first Panda, cuddle the hell out of it for literally a minute (realize that my wife enjoyed that minute with the Panda more than anything I’ve ever seen her enjoy before EVER!) and a Buddha that was a man’s life’s work to carve it out of the side of a mountain! Then a hike and climb up a mountain, literally above the clouds, to see one of the oldest Taoist temples on earth. You cannot truly appreciate the size of this Buddha unless you see it from all sides, here are all the Chengdu pics!

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Cruising down the ancient Yangzi river with two of our best friends was an incredible mid-point of the year, seeing these ancient villages along the bank that have used this river for generations, intermingled with mythical massive modern cities built out of nowhere using new found Chinese riches! There are so many pictures of this story you have to see!

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July was my first time in India to have a bit of exploration time outside of Mumbai. A week or so through the legendary Rajasthan was one of the most rewarding experiences. To see the decadence of kings of the silk road and how the polar opposite of the poorest of the poor survive in tandem, leaving India always fills me with a sense of hope. This trip though hit me with a different meaning and feeling, one that reminded me and scared me about home.

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I decided this year that as I travel so much for work that we are going to mix as much play with it as possible, and the year got a little busy. A pitch in Vietnam was the perfect excuse to sneak up to the Nam Hai in Hoi An for a few days to see what Vietnam was like, the taste got us hooked and with good cause. A lot was was jammed into a very few days – have a look!

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August was again one of those experiences you remember forever, friends flying into China to head to the Qingdao beer festival. Imagine October fest with less alcohol tolerance, the same amount of people but only Chinese, far more arb-ness, less civility and all around absolute fucking mayhem. It was brilliant! To see the full extent of the chaos go here!

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This followed rapidly with the visit of some more great friends and what seemed like the most perfect day in Beijing history to head out of the city and up the wall. The wall is something that impacted me as a kid and I was eager to see if I felt the same. To stand there with my wife and four of my best friends made me feel invincible.

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Staying in an Aman resort that is made from the thousand year old ‘waiting houses’ for people wanting to go see the Empress was magnificent, and a sneak into the Summer Palace before anyone else is allowed in was also incredible, but running around the lake with my (VERY GRUMPY) wife at dawn when the air and lake were perfectly still was a stand out too! It prompted me to write a post about travel and experiencing travel!

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The great thing about China is small breaks all over the place. That, combined with the need to go home for sibling important birthdays, is the cause for interesting holiday locations. The Emirates is not one I would have ever have thought to explored but, in true style, these places were some of the most magnificent I’ve seen. A desert resort in the middle of nowhere in crystal blue water bay!

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Then a tented style Bedouin camp inclusive of camel rides, champagne in the desert and running in the early morning with the falcons being trained overhead, a world away from this world (the post has been sitting waiting to be published for ages)

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I found out what all the fuss is about with Sanya which is considered the Chinese Hawaii, it’s a picture perfect end of the Chinese countryside that makes for pretty good pool villa living!

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Oh yes, after this decadence there was time to sneak home for a birthday bash with the entire fam flying in from all over the place and a few days to head down to Leopard Creek to play golf and chill with some of the family which was the most special few days!

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DSC05905Lastly to get to go to the bush, I’ve written about this place a few times but I literally crave being here. I miss it dearly when I’m away and when you land and go directly to Wild Dog puppies you know you’re in a special place! To spend a few days at Inyati with the entire family is truly priceless!

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Finally in November I got to visit the home of the greatest Chinese food invention ever, and there have been some seriously good ones (and seriously horrific ones) the Xiao long bao, in a tiny water town called Nanxiang.

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Also I got to finally see the Terracotta warriors in Xi’an which I’ve been waiting to see my whole life. Strangely enough the highlight was not the warriors but riding a tandem bike along the 20km ancient city wall and just talking while riding was, for me, my highlight of the trip.

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Lastly a trip to the main Panda base in early December to go work for a day as a volunteer to feed, play with and experience the magnificent Giant Pandas again. That combined with some tiny towns and a 20 course tasting menu in the city that is considered the Gastronomic center of China.

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Well there was one final trip home that started perhaps the hardest stretch of the year. I know I put my body through some tough periods of drinking but pretty much 23 days of travel, year end dinners & sleepless nights took its toll but it was serious fun! Here was the full frightening schedule of those few precious SA days!

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Finally onto this trip we are on now, but I’ll push that into the 2014 folder :)

So just as importantly, what did I learn this year?

I learnt that being away is hard, there are times when you just want to sit in a ball and cry because everything and everyone around you is unfamiliar. I learnt that there is comfort in unfamiliarity and that as time goes by even the most foreign can become most dear.

I learnt that friends can be found anywhere and be of any age if you are open to it and some of the most unlikely friendships can end up being some of the most rewarding.

I learnt that the Chinese will literally drink until they fall over and the old adage of them getting red is very much true, its starts at their faces and when it hits there feet they die! Also after many a dinner I realize they NEVER get hung over, EVER!

I learnt that when you are the head of a business you have to drink with everyone in the room, one by one at a celebratory dinner, this means literally EVERYONE, ONE BY ONE regardless of if you can or cannot and when three women arrive with quarts of beer at the end of the night and you need to down them one at a time, that’s when you realize how tough you need to be.

I learnt that the games that get played at Chinese dinners are the most juvenile, strangest reality show type games but if you are slightly drunk (which you will be) you realize just how into it they get and how much fun they can be but when the game is for one person standing on a chair to drop a piece of bread and the two others standing below need to catch it with their faces, that’s when you start looking around for the TV crew to see if you are being punk’d!

I learnt that when you are hangover and walking through an ancient village getting to meet the 100 year old locals that the best decision you will make is to try their home made wine from their backyard vines.

I learnt I love dumplings in general more than anything on earth and that making them is easier than you would think!

I learnt that living in a 100 year old Chinese lane house in a fairly local neighborhood is an amazing part of life, that braaing in the tiny backyard is as rewarding as anything and that working at my Chinese style desk with the air blowing through the room listening to one of my neighbor’s playing classical piano is beautiful.

I learnt that stay-cations in great hotels are seriously fun and that tasting menus may be my downfall.

I learnt that if you train hard, expect more of your body and try and pace the quantity of decadent food and wine you eat, you will be amazed by the results. Similarly if you fuck around and eat like a piglet you will lose them!

I learnt that great people, both newly acquainted and known forever, make great memories and the place, feeling, and moments merely add to these!

I learnt that every year I’m away I lose a year with my parents and they certainly won’t be around forever. I learnt that while they come visit and I go back, that missing out chunks of being together makes each time leaving my family that much harder.

I learnt that buildings can literally be built to look like Xmas trees!

I learnt that you never stop learning about yourself. That your fears and hopes change continually and if you listen to them, try embracing them, you will be amazed what you can achieve.

I learnt that generally as humans we take the easy way out and we keep within our comfort zones at all costs. We expand to a point and then unless we consciously continue to grow we shrink and our lives and our worlds become smaller and smaller. I learnt that the world has too much to offer and too many things to experience for this ever to be an option.

I learn that when you are apart from people you were close to, some will make the effort to continue the relationship and some wont. These are the times you wonder what relationships really are built to last no matter what the distance and which merely run their course as so many before them do.

What will the year ahead be?

I hate resolutions, I think they are fucking stupid ways of once a year confessing that we are too fat, too unhealthy, to cowardly to quit, break up, express and change, they are a way of, for a split second imagining, that we could change all the things in our life we actually are too scared or too weak to actually change.

I like things that are specific, measurable and therefore achievable. Call me OCD but I like to be able to cross things off a list or learn from why I didn’t achieve them.

So what do I want to do this year?

  1. I want to be in contact with my family more. I mean, we speak a lot, my brothers and I talk at least weekly and my parents maybe every two weeks or so but I want to be the one to call more, too often I’m the one receiving the call.
  2. I want to be more comfortable with myself. I know this is a bit fluffy but it’s one I will be able to feel whether I’m achieving or not. I want to be able to be who I am, in meetings, in social settings without feeling the need to prove or fit in, I want to feel like this ALL THE TIME.
  3. I want to be out of my comfort zone more, I want to make choices that are more difficult than defaulting to staying at home or eating in the hotel. I want to explore more, learn more, travel more and see more! I want to soak up as much as I can as often as I can and even as I write this I know every time I’m faced with a decision where I  know the outcome will leave me in a an anxious place I want to choose it anyway.
  4. I want to be more expressive when I feel emotions about others, when I miss people or think of people or experience something that reminds me of people, I want to tell them as often as possible
  5. I want to be stronger, fitter, leaner and faster. I realized this year that you can push your body a long way but unless you are totally committed you will lose those results. This year I touched the state I want myself to be in a few times but with work, social and in general some poor decisions I slip often. I want to be able to build this into my life without changing who I am or what I love which is to eat and drink! A lot!
  6. I want to live in the moment more. I often find myself feeling guilty for really enjoying something or try planning for the next day, next meal, and next trip without fully appreciating who I’m with or what I’m doing right now.
  7. I want to build a business in China that has roots, that has depth and that has a lasting impression of our culture on the people who work in it. I want my strategy to be implemented over 18 months that will create talent, excellence in our service and develop a brand that has been battling to get traction for years.

When I think of 2013 I think almost of a hippy tie died blanket, a mix of chaos and color, of mess and perfection and general experience. I guess all we can do in the end is live in this moment, enjoy or don’t, but learn from it and that isn’t always easy.

I realize if you have made it to the end of this post you will be wondering why all the rambling was necessary but there are certain times in life and at the end of a year and the precipice of the new one, I think it’s important to reflect on the past and look forward to the future and while I love each and every one of you who read this I am writing it for me, to explain me at age 31 on 1 January 2014 so, forgive me a little.

I wish you all out there a 2014 that is filled with big dreams, big hopes and big wishes. I hope that you achieve some of them and fail at others and enjoy each and every endeavor. I hope that you find someone special to share your life and your days with and if you have that you tell them every day how you feel about them. I hope that you find a passion to explore and a job that challenges you, frustrates you and rewards you. I wish you all a magical 2014!

STM out from Shuhe old town Lijiang, Yunnan, China!

 

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Why I mourn Madiba so deeply . . .

Local is / is not lekker

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If you don’t know I live in Shanghai. I was a million miles away from South Africa on the tragic day of Madiba’s passing and in fact I was on conference with our Chinese partners, almost none of whom even acknowledged the existence of the man.

It was hard to be alone during this time.

Fuck! Here’s me complaining about how hard life is on a post about the man who defined perseverance against hardship. Pathetic!

I guess why I’m hurting so much is that it feels like this is the last ray of sunshine, this is the piece of social good that we have all been clinging to in the hope that some part of the ‘Madiba Magic’ that kept us together all this time would manage to find a way to get us back on the right path. Now I just feel like its gone forever and the Hyenas have taken over the pride land allowing everything to waste away slowly while they lie full and fat.

I’m not going to talk about the greatness that was and will always be Nelson Mandela. There are far more important men and women who have and will do that. History will record him correctly as one of this earths most influential, positive and triumphant heroes of good. He was the greatest obstacle to an evil that found its roots in nazi Germany and as a Jew I know all too well what may have happened had a man like Mandela and his followers not fought with the sacrifice that they did. Ahmed Kathrada was so right in his brilliant eulogy when he said Madiba was going to rejoin the A-team of the ANC.

How sad they would be to see just how tainted their dream has become!

I sometimes wish I could sit with Madiba in a kind of after life nirvana and ask him what he thinks of the state of South Africa today, if he believes his life was a fair sacrifice for those few gorging themselves on new found riches at the expense of the uneducated starving masses. I suspect he would be as heart sore as I am that his passing has come at South Africa’s darkest time since his ruling era.

A time when the sitting president is booed and Winnie Madikizela Mandela is cheered. A time when a rogue youth leader fraught with greed and corruption of his own, using the uneducated masses as a mouth piece for his lies, racial hatred and fake promises. A glimmer of hope provided by at least one freedom fighter of old whose morals and integrity not yet currupted. A time when the divide between rich and poor is growing ever wider and those so desperately in need of education are being swept under the rug along with failing healthcare and infrastructure. A time when the government borrows billions from off shore companies to erect tolls that the public so vehemently protests it brings the country to a stand still. It only etolls were the biggest problem we face.

Why is my sorrow for Madiba’s passing so deep. Its because when he was a strong young man faced with injustice, he took to the streets, he demanded change, he demanded something be done and he was not afraid to fight and die for his belief of what was right, not even, what was fair! What do we do? Sit fat in our brunch places and lunch places drinking Rose, Johnny Walker and whatever else will give us enough buzz to ignore the beggars on the way home. Saunter from boutique to coffee shop chatting about trivial expenses and then angrily quibble when we have to pay a car guard or parking fee. I don’t mean to preach nor do I mean to point fingers, I include my own self loathing in this ramble, but at what point do we give up, at what point do we say the evil that has been growing within is too strong to defeat? At what point do we ask ourselves where we want to raise our children and allow them an education where they can compete with the best in the world? At what point to we say the acceptance of greed, the approval of corruption, the spiraling statistic of rape and violent crime and the ever escalating cost of services along with a depreciating rand are no longer worth breathing that one full clean perfect breath of South African air on the highveld after a rain storm?

I don’t know the answer, although I do fear it. All I do know if that in a country filled with ever closing darkness, the man who always carried the brightest torch and who gave his life to fight any kind of inequality has now sadly left us and his torch has extinguished. Worst of all I see no one rushing to light their own but rather more and more hide in the shadows and enjoy the cover of ill-doings that darkness so often provides.

I mourn for Madiba, the man he was, the icon he always will be and the guiding beacon of morality South Africa is so desperate for once again! Rest in peace Madiba, the comfort of your voice, the uplifting nature of your laugh, the power of your words and the immortal authority of your spirit will be in our hearts forever. We were all fortunate to breath the same air as you, to walk the same earth that you did and to live at a time when we could learn from you.

You will be missed like no other!

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How were your last few days?

High Flying!

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One hour to the airport, two at the airport, 3 to Hong Kong, 3 in Hong Kong, 13hrs to Johannesburg

Slept 45 min, hit turbulence couldn’t sleep again, 2 hours in Joburg, 2 hours to CT, interview on landing with no sleep and hangover from Champagne on plane

Presentations until 6pm (body clock midnight), go for a run (slightly pull calf muscle), dinner till 10pm at The Bungalow, drinks until 3am (body clock on 9am) at Mitchells pub, drunken slumber until 5am, 2 hours sleep, strong hangover

Interview after breakfast at 7am, me to present at 9am, presentations all day, drinks until 7pm at the Radisson (body clock somewhere around midnight), drive to Stellies, dinner with the some of the family, 4 bottles of wine / 4 ppl, sleep at midnight, wake up 5am (body clock no idea at this point), third very strong hangover in 3 mornings

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One hour to airport, 2 hours to Joburg, spend day with friends at Wolfpack, drink from after lunch until 1am at Melrose arch, sleep until 5am (body clock probably around 8am – syncing with local time)

One hour to airport, two hours to Cape Town one hour to Stellenbosch, all day party in the wine lands at the Duck Pond, dinner at The Bungalow until brain and body shutdown at midnight (body clock adjusted to local time), 6 hours sleep.

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Presentations all day, dinner at Grand Beach, drinks at the Mount Nelson until 1am, 4 hours sleep.

One hour to the airport, one hour at the airport, two hours to Johannesburg, four hours at the airport, 13 hours to Hong Kong, two hours in Hong Kong, two hours to Shanghai, One hour home from airport.

Shower, work and fall asleep on couch pinching nerve in neck. Now to look left or right I have to turn my full body but even if there is a threat I can’t run away due to pulled leg muscle and exhaustion.

So fine thank you, how were your last few days?

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Why Unilever are the greatest marketers (company?) on the planet right now . . .

Advertising Genius!

Ok that may be taking it a little far I suppose but really they can’t be far off. Following the massive success of the Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign that has been hailed as one of the greatest campaigns in living memory it has now started Project Sunlight. If you haven’t seen Dove sketches then firstly you aren’t on the internet access side of the universe and second you are missing out of stellar marketing, so just watch!

I watched the video for Project Sunlight last week and I must say it’s just another step further into marketing genius from Keith Weed and the Unilever marketers again. They really have found a place in the soft spot of real people and are now milking it for all its worth. Now if this were any other company I would be slating them, or praising them, for taking a piece of human emotion and profiting off of it, but this company is different.

Unilever is actually doing it, they are doing the good that so many company spurt out at press cons and conferences, Unilever are living a sustainability plan every single day no matter the cost. Paul Polman is leading the next generation of business models into a sustainable future. He is an example to those around him who tell us the good they are trying to do but actually all they are doing is making sure the PR looks good.

He has taken a stand in his business, with his suppliers and his products to focus on bringing us brand that are not only world class in quality but are from sustainable sources, are helping people stay safe and healthy and are creating a better future than the one we have now. I’ve heard him say it, I’ve seen his business actively living it and its why adverts like this are so powerful because for the first time we actually have a big business ‘walking the talk’

Watch this and tell me it doesn’t hit a nerve!

Now don’t get me wrong, this is no ‘for nonprofit’ organization. They make a lot of money, they have shareholders, they have a board and they have targets like everyone else. All of this marketing is design to sell more and to make more, BUT and the most important BUT is that they are actually doing it in a good way. They are the only business making a difference on this type of scale across the world.

Now if you’re standing at a shelf and you are going to buy a brand, surely, without question, you want it to come from a company like their and not the competition?

That ladies and gentlemen is a world class marketing business. Hats off to them!

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Experience travel . . .

High Flying!

I read such a cool article the other day on the ever brilliant cool hunter about travel, that just sums up my love if it.

Some people don’t get me and why I love to travel so much, but to experience different things, in different places, different cultures, foods, drinks, people and so on is just the most incredible thing for me. I fell like each time I experience something new, especially out of my comfort zone, I gain a new perspective on things, a fresh eye and probably a better understanding of myself.

So when I found this Aman resort that is basically built out of the waiting quarters from the 1000 year old Beijing Summer Palace there was no question other than when. You see the resort is not only inside these almost ancient houses, redone to modern luxury standards of course, but with the feeling of old China. China without the people, the chaos, but replaced with simple elegance and subtle decadence of dynasty’s long gone and forgotten in this booming metropolis.

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The best part, I think though, is at any time you can call the resort team and they will navigate you to the secret door which leads right into the summer palace grounds, a place that from 9 – 5 during the day is a mess of families, groups, children screaming, tourist’s touring, people eating, drinking and messing around this man-made lake overlooked by the magnificent summer palace itself BUT outside of these hours it’s a magically quiet, calm and serene place. A place that if you wake up at sunset and run the 6 or 7km course around it, over ancient half-moon bridges, through the corridors of hand painted scenes and past the antique building and shrines it fills you with the most incredible feeling of past and present.

This is what I mean by experiencing travel. Don’t get me wrong I’m no health freak, the tasting menu in the signature French / Chinese fusion restaurant and bottle of vino from burgundy was a little more my speed but you get what I mean.

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As it is I get to experience almost all of these things with the most important person of all but every now and again I get to experience things with friends or family that make it just that much more special.

I had been to the Great Wall as a kid and apparently I said to my parents that I want to bring my children to it one day, I’ve never said that about anything else in my life. I don’t remember saying that but I do remember the impact the wall had on me, I was eager to see if it would hold the same feeling.

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I can honestly say standing on top of the Great Wall with a bunch of people I have loved for many years has to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The feeling you get standing, overlooking, walking, thinking, climbing is unparalleled. I think it is really one of the most special places in the world for me.

That’s without the sledding from top to bottom ;)

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To conclude the experience to sit in the side car of an American / Tongan entrepreneur who has been living in Beijing for 10 years and to see the city at night through his eyes and on his bike was incredible!

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This is what I mean by experience travel. These are the kinds of things that impact your soul and stay with you as memories forever. These are the experiences that grow you as a citizen of this planet and allow you fresh perspective on the world around!

 

 

 

 

 

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Place of hope, despair, absolute wealth and absolute poverty . . .

Uncategorized

Every time I go to India (for context – almost always for business and to Mumbai) I come away with the strangest feeling of inspiration. While it may sound slightly contrived or clichéd it’s completely true. You see our business deals with retailers, of all sizes, in all places. From massive hypers and wholesalers to tiny one container / room stores selling a mix of half cases to the local residents. The reason I’m telling you this is because I get to see a lot of areas, good and bad, when I go to India.

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I can help but find myself smiling when I’m standing outside a ‘store’ with the owner sleeping behind the counter, a family of flies buzzing on and around him, waiting for his fresh milk delivery that will be poured into a 50 liter steel drum and labeled out to the customers on their way home from work.

The reason I feel like this is because when I look around I see vibrancy, energy and a soul of people that cannot be defeated, cannot see failure and will survive to make their lives better. They are happy and content with what they have and more often than not it is less than nothing. They will try any way any plan and any path to improve their lives. There is the most powerful underlying feeling of self-improvement which I have yet to come across as a general feeling in any country in the world. As always it make me irritated with the general entitled attitude of South Africans in general!

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This time though I saw a different side of India. I headed up to Rajasthan to experience a bit of regal majesty, what I found was a history of extraordinary wealth and power, but somehow the ability to continue to survive and thrive in a modern context.

The other side of India is so luxurious it takes your breath away. When you enter the city of Udaipur you quickly realize the pre-modern rulers of this place had a similar taste for decadence that I do! There is the City Palace used for formal events, stays and the like (today it stands a magnificent 1000 meter long building).

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Then there is the palace built for the sole purpose of having parties on the lake. The lake i forgot mention is completely man made. Imagine a time with no machines, bulldozers, graders etc and trying to build a lake?

The dome like structure in the middle is where Shah Jahan (the guy who built the Taj Mahal) lived for a long time while exiled by his father and this is where, they say, he got his inspiration for the Taj.

Jag Mandir Island Palace at Dusk 1

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Then finally (well there is also a monsoon Palace up on the mountain because, well, you know, one cant be in ones normal palaces when it rains now can one?!) the magnificent Lake Palace that is now rented and renovated by the Taj Hotel group and is a hotel. You know when you check in on a ‘dock’ and a boat arrives to take you to your corner suite that its going to be on hell of an experience!

The small boat off the hotel is the Spa :)

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A 5 hour drive through rural India, a few monkeys, alot of tiny villages, many cows in the road, one elephant and many many cows in the road later we arrived at the Jain Temple at Ranakpur. An 800 year old temple that is hand-carved out of marble. Each and every square in inch is carved in a unique and delicately detailed way. The highlight of which is the 1444 pillars each carved from top to bottom rising into the most spectacular circular domes.

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Onward to Jodhpur, the blue city, after the temple!

Driving through the tiny narrow roads of the old city you start to wonder if you will end up sold for body parts at some point but all of a sudden two quick turns and arrival at the incredible boutique hotel called the RAAS. Checked in and into the double story hotel room with a balcony, the view from which literally made my jaw drop. Over the pool and dinner setting up over the city and onto the Great Fort of the the city. Built into and onto the mountain this towering show of stregth and greatness is one of the most mind-blowing things (I’ve said that a lot this trip!) I’ve ever seen!

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Inside the fort you start to realize the genius of design built to protect a city and its people for eternity, and it did! In fact the city walls were never even breached let alone the fort itself. Now it serves as a museum to the past and to the kings that once occupied it.

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Jodhpurs own Taj Mahal made totally from white marble

Jodhpurs own Taj Mahal made totally from white marble

Jodhpurs own Taj Mahal made totally from white marble

Jodhpurs own Taj Mahal made totally from white marble

This is why they call it the blue city!

This is why they call it the blue city!

Th most famous man in India (by number of photos)

Th most famous man in India (by number of photos)

The kings bedroom!

The kings bedroom!

The kings private strip club - literally!

The kings private strip club – literally!

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The last and perhaps most decadent part of this excursion was Umaid Bhawan Palace. Currently home to the royals of this part (the left side) and the Tajj Hotel (the right side). Literally sharing the same roof as a royal fam!

This palace / hotel is truly spectacular and my few photos here dont do it justice (in fact not to any of the above!) but have a look at these and go to the hotels website!

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The view from one of three balconies in our suite!

The view from one of three balconies in our suite!

The courtyard outside our suite!

The courtyard outside our suite!

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For many more and better pics you can go see most of em here!

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