I'd like to welcome Michael Ferris, author of Crossing Borders, to Acting Balanced as part of his Pump Up Your Book virtual tour. He's guest blogging here today and I will be posting a review of Crossing Borders here tomorrow with an additional chance to win a copy of his book, so watch for it!
Sending Breakfast to Grandma - A True Story
by Michael Ferris
My grandma’s birthday was coming up and since I was living in southern
at that time, I decided to send her something truly and originally Italian. I
had the idea of sending her an authentic breakfast from one of the most
beautiful countries in the world. Seeing
that Italians only eat a couple of cookies and a cup of coffee in the morning, my choice was to send an Italian
“caffetiera”, which is a small coffee maker for the stove to make espresso
along with biscotti and a small package of the best coffee grounds money could
buy. That way, while breathing in the aroma of that fresh brew, she could
imagine what it was like to be in Italy , a place she had always
wanted to visit. Of course, she wouldn’t be hearing the noise of cars honking,
people shouting in the street while gesticulating every emotion in their souls,
but I was sure that she would be able to imagine it. Italy
Once everything was packaged, I made my way to the post office. Going to the post office in
is easier said than done. First of all, it takes a lot of time and waiting,
is very stressful, and usually involves your signature on
After entering, I drew a number and sat down to await my turn. In
you usually don’t wait in line - well, because Italians don’t wait in line,
they ‘crowd in‘all at once and try to get what they want as quickly as
possible. For this reason, you have to take a number almost everywhere you go,
even when buying an ice cream cone at a local stand. If you are lucky, someone who has taken
several numbers before you, who gets them ‘just in case’, might give you one of
his. If you are super lucky, that number might be 20 digits less than your
After waiting for about an hour and half, I told the clerk, “I’d like to send this small package to the
His eyes widened as he got all white in the face while walking into the back
room yelling for his colleague at the top of his lungs.
“Gianni, this guy wants to send a package to the
!” he said. US
When his colleague came, they gave me several papers to fill out and told me to get another number. Glancing through them, I noticed that they were filled with references about exporting goods to other countries, requesting not only my address, telephone number, and a description of the goods, but also my Italian social security number. Well, they say, “when in Rome , do as the Romans do,” and I was only about four hours away from the Eternal City, so I started filling everything out and took another number. Seeing that most of the post office heard my conversation about wanting to send a package to the
, I was constantly being
interrupted by people waiting, asking where I was from and why I was in US . A couple
of individuals had been very persistent about helping fill out the forms. Italy
When it was my turn again, the clerk examined all the papers and noticed that I had written “package of cookies” in the description-of-contents field. He and his colleague said that the
accept this without an invoice from the manufacturer. “I don’t want to export
the cookies, I just want to send them to my grandma,” I said. US
“Well, then you will have to send home-made cookies,” the clerk exclaimed.
“Home-made!? That is just crazy!” trying to explain to him that the rule was exactly the opposite. “Fresh food is exactly what you CANNOT send.” It hadn’t been the first time I sent a package to the
from overseas, just the first time in US . After a bout of argument, he
finally said that he would send it, but explained to me in a very serious tone
that he did not think that the Italy
would accept it without the cookies being home-made. US
Then he told me, “Ah, I forgot to give you this form.” After handing it to me, I had to take another number and wait about another hour… It was finally my turn again. “You forgot to put down your Italian social security number.”
“I don’t have one! I am not even Italian” I said. “Isn’t it possible for a foreigner to send a package?!?”
Suddenly, everyone in the waiting area started yelling in Italian. I could only make out that they were trying to defend me. “The post office is for everyone!” they all shouted bursting out in different reproachful remarks toward the post office clerk. It was at that moment, in order to calm the crowd, that the man accepted my package.
“That will be 75 Euros,” he said. 75 Euros is over a hundred dollars. After four hours, I took my box of coffee and cookies and decided that grandma would not be getting a gift that year. After exiting the post office, I went to the first place available and had a very strong drink to calm myself down.
Here is something about
that is quite odd, and I say ‘about
because things similar to what is described above seemed to happen on a daily
basis. The next day, I passed by the post office and surprisingly, it was
almost empty. I decided to go back with my package again. That price just
couldn’t have been right. After about five minutes of waiting, a new clerk took
the package, weighed it, and asked for postage of € 11.95. My grandma ended up
getting it too, without me having to fill out a single form or bake any
cookies. She said that it had been delivered express by registered mail right
on her birthday in time for breakfast… Italy
His latest book is Crossing Borders.
Cultural misunderstandings, crazy and dangerous situations, inter-cultural friendships, love and disappointment and the excitement of exploring. “Crossing Borders” tells the story of living and becoming an adult in a foreign country away from friends and family. This narrative is not a simple travel log of pondering curiosities; it unites the weirdest, most interesting and funniest experiences from twelve years living abroad.
The story starts out with the author’s experiences of his first adventure in the heart of Europe-in German speaking Austria. Dreams of going to study at the Viennese Academy of Music go up in smoke when the protagonist fails the entrance exam.
The protagonist not only ends up living in a mountain village in the Alps, but also discovers traits and virtues in his new Austrian friends that he never thought possible. From almost getting shot in Cairo, having his bride kidnapped on their wedding day, to getting blackmailed by a Moroccan snake charmer, each chapter takes the reader on an extraordinary cultural trip, a book for anyone who likes to travel, whether in their mind or reality.
You can visit his website at www.crossingborders.ferrisguitar.com or connect with him at Facebook at and Twitter at http://twitter.com/ferrismichael. Visit his book’s facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Crossing-Borders-by-Michael-Ferris/178577402162088.
Do you want to win your own copy of Crossing Borders?