Behind every story is another story, just like the dirt under your fingernails reveals the truth to the forensics lab.
When someone reads my glossy story in DreamScapes Travel magazine, they might think from a heading inserted by the editorial department that I thought Machu Picchu was a trip of a lifetime, when in fact it was closer to being a trip to a life sentence in a Peruvian prison as I seriously contemplated pushing my annoying guide over the 8,000 ft edge. Instead I waited for her to turn her back and then I hid in a sacrificial chamber until she gave up looking for me (I’m not actually sure that it was a sacrificial chamber, as I didn’t have a guide to tell me what it was).
Behind the Scenes will reveal the truths and gritty details behind the job or story.
Published in winter of 2009 in Kirsten’s column in Leap Local’s Travel News Publication, (UK print edition and International digital version) But is it… Completely Crazy to Wire Money to Local Guides? By Kirsten Koza
Here I go again – it goes against common sense – am I seriously going to wire money from my Canadian bank account to guides in Russia?
My brother has been considering joining me on my trip. I told Shawn we had to wire our payment because www.ecotours-russia.com can’t take credit cards. Shawn asked, “How do you know the guides will show up?” I babbled and closed my argument by saying I’d done this before, and the guides always showed. Shawn said ominously, “You’re just lucky.”
Paying local guides is problematic. They usually can’t accept plastic. If you require them to arrange a long trip, they need advance finances. You might have to SWIFT money to a personal bank account.
I’m also in an awkward situation because I invite strangers and friends on my travels – it isn’t just my money I’m risking. Then there are the seemingly arbitrary, exorbitant bank fees. Russia brings back the unease of my first wiring experience.
I went to Scotiabank in my hometown and paid a $60 fee to SWIFT a deposit to the personal bank account of my Romanian mountain bike guide, Horia. For two weeks Horia emailed to say my 300 Euro had not arrived.
There are other payment services. Moneybookers is available in fewer countries than PayPal. EmerchantPay has a 10% catch, maybe because they cater to gambling and porn. My bank suggested posting a certified cheque. That’s cheaper for the tourist, but will it even get where it’s going? Not all postal systems are created equal.
Leap Local is currently working on solutions for paying local guides. I’ve only scratched the surface of the issue because some local guides don’t even have bank accounts. I’ve never had a problem with the guides that I’ve wired money to, but I do lots of research beforehand.
If you, or someone you love (or just tolerate) are drawn to the Grinch, Scrooge, Captain Hook, Dr. Evil, Seinfeld’s horrible friends, the Wicked Witch of the West, Nelly Olsen, Snidely Whiplash, Eric Northman, Cruella de Vil, Wiley Coyote and Hannibal Lecter, then Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls was written for you.
I fell in love with Akhmed, the villain in chief, the president of Iran, a scrumptious despot, from the book’s beginning due to declarations such as:
“Doesn’t anyone listen to me? Is it because I’m short? Good things come in small packages. My own mother told me that before I had her beaten to death!”
The story is a fantastic, toxic and politically incorrect cocktail from Gary Buslik’s twisted mind:
“Go on Hazeem,” said Akhmed, “order a Mojito!”
“As far as I know, there is nothing specifically in Scripture prohibiting cane distillates.”
“True, true,” Hazeem guessed. “Very well,” he shouted to the beauty. “A Mojito it will be!”
Akhmed ordered one for himself, too. He leaned into Hazeem’s other ear and said that if he ever snitched to anyone back home, his tongue would be torn from his mouth, his eyes would be gouged out with a hot poker, his male organs would be lopped off, a wood screw would be drilled under his kneecap and worked up through his body and out through his nostril with a giant magnet, he would be skinned alive in one-inch strips, which would then be woven into a woman’s menstruation pad, a large jar of spaghetti sauce would be inserted into his rectum sideways, and he would be beheaded with a spoon.
Hazeem gave him a thumbs-up. “No problemo.” He zipped his lips. “What happens in the Western Hemisphere stays in the Western Hemisphere.”
“Wonderful,” the president said. “Now let’s have a good time!”
Buslik layers complications upon his characters with the deftness of P.G. Wodehouse until the entire cast of baddies are bound in a Gordion’s knot of a plot which requires the great thinkers of Gilligan’s Island and the world’s worst leaders, a broken deus ex machina, and termites to resolve.
Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls, a novel of International Intrigue, Pork-Crazed Termites, and Motherhood is delectably despicable. It will blow you right out of your burqa.
BEHIND THE SCENES:
- I have a back cover quote on Akhmed—“Delectably despicable. Will blow you right out of your burqa.” Gary told me that he bought a burqa for his first wife and when she left she didn’t take it with her. I asked him recently if he’d send it to me. He asked me why. It should be obvious as I was blown out of mine. He said his first wife’s burqa is blue. It sounds very fetching. If he doesn’t send it to me, I’ll assume he’s keeping it for his future ex-wives.
- My mother tried the matzo ball recipe in Akhmed last Passover and she’s still alive. She said it was the best matzo ball batter she’s ever tasted.
- WARNING: There’s a section in the book about Israeli Spy Vultures and it comes from a thread from my Facebook wall. If you have writer friends, beware, we do this.
- Here’s a YouTube link to a video I shot in the Middle East. You can tell that the first commenter (in the comments) who uses the F-bomb hasn’t read the book because the book mocks everybody equally. Silly Billy.