Guest Post & Book Giveaway - Michael Ferris

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 Italy 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.

Once everything was packaged, I made my way to the post office. Going to the post office in Bari 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 something.

After entering, I drew a number and sat down to await my turn. In Italy, 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 own.
After waiting for about an hour and half, I told the clerk, “I’d like to send this small package to the United States.” 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 US!” he said.

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 US, I was constantly being interrupted by people waiting, asking where I was from and why I was in Italy. A couple of individuals had been very persistent about helping fill out the forms.

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 US would not 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.
“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 US from overseas, just the first time in Italy. 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 US would accept it without the cookies being home-made.
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 Italy that is quite odd, and I say ‘about Italy’ 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…

Michael Ferris, originally from St. Joseph, Michigan, started working in his father’s music store, Ferris Music Center, at the age of sixteen and started playing the classical guitar at the age of seventeen. Having had many wonderful teachers, not only with great talent but also great souls, he moved on to study at the internationally acclaimed Mozarteum University for Music and Applied Arts in Salzburg, Austria (*-Die Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Mozarteum) where he completed his M.A. in Guitar. Michael studied under well-known guitarists Maria Isabel Siewers de Pazur, Joaquin Clerch, Augustin Wiedemann, Ricardo Gallen, and the world-renowned player Eliot Fisk. In doing so, he has not only learned the instrument, but lived out his dreams.Having the chance to gain an array of experience during his travels in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, he is now able to speak several languages fluently and works at an international company in Vienna. In addition to this, he still teaches guitar and holds courses in Business English at a local college on the weekends.

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 or connect with him at Facebook at and Twitter at  Visit his book’s facebook page at

Do you want to win your own copy of Crossing Borders?

Giveaway Day 1:
Giveaway is open to US and Canadian Residents only
Mandatory Entry must be completed before other entries count.
Each entry must be made as a SEPARATE COMMENT
Giveaway will end on February 20th, 2011 at 11:59 PM and the winner will be chosen by and announce on Acting Balanced and contacted by email
The winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize.
You will have a second round of chances to enter on tomorrow's review post.
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the comments on the review post will begin at X+1 for

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