$16.95Hilarious Travel Disasters, Monstrous Toilets, a Demon Dildo

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By Kirsten Koza
October 2015
ISBN 978-1-609-52109-7 272 pages

WUSS_Front Cover-webSTAND BACK!
The 31 tales in this raunchy round-the-world romp might get you dirty.

We’ve all had unspeakable experiences while traveling that we’re ashamed to admit, but these often become our best stories in the re-telling. The writers in this collection cast inhibition aside and reveal their weirdest and worst moments and how they made the best of them. And memorable moments in exotic destinations come in all shapes and sizes: insects as big as Pam Anderson’s left tit, regrettable sex, stink-eyed officials, horrible healers, Lady Gaga’s shoes and Madonna’s special meal, trigger-happy militants, and peeping Tom rock stars.

Adventure vicariously as:

  • Spud Hilton (not Monty Python) finds the Holy Grail by accident.
  • Meghan Ward squats, and then the toilet grunts back, in Goa.
  • Kasha Rigby proved how tough she is on National Geographic’s Ultimate Survival Alaska, but is she a match for a 90-year-old bone breaker in Guatemala?
  • Namibians stereotype Chinese men as Bruce Lee—Gerald Yeung wonders if attacking baboons will do the same.
  • Jabba-the-Turd versus Shannon Bradford in an epic showdown in Argentina.

And much more….

~ ~ ~

“Kirsten Koza is like Judy Blume on acid.”
—Sandra Polifroni, CHRY Radio, Toronto

Don’t Push the Button!

Schadenfreude: (noun) delight in another’s misfortune.
Collins English Dictionary

Whether you’re being mugged by a madwoman using her pubic hair as a weapon (yes, this is in the book), are fleeing from maniacal baboons, or have to catch your loose stool sample in a thimble in a third-world hospital—it’s never funny at the time. The beauty of travel is, like children, we stumble naively into these strange situations that don’t happen in the familiar settings of our homes. This great unknown in a foreign country leaves us vulnerable to another kind of trip as well—the head trip.

I was utterly gleeful when Travelers’ Tales offered me the job of compiling and editing the stories for Wake Up and Smell the Shit. I was in Kyrgyzstan when I started receiving the bulk of story submissions. On the wall of my hotel room was a button and beside the button was a sign that said, “Don’t push the button.” All I could think about was that button. What did it do? Did I have the room with the faulty room service button that delivered a deadly electric shock instead of vodka and caviar? What if I accidentally hit the button in the dark—would I wake up the next morning to find I’d nuked New York (and the magazine I write for) before being paid for my article?

At a hotel at home, I’d never have taken that head trip. I’d have called the reception desk and asked, “So what happens if I hit the mystery button?” But I couldn’t work anything in my room in Bishkek—not the phone or the lock on my door. I pushed a button on the air conditioner and my room filled with cigarette smoke.

Some head trips in this volume are perfectly reasonable: a writer wakes in a hotel room in a pool of blood and has to piece together what happened, and another imagines murdering her annoying trip partner. Some head trips are just insane fun. Gary Buslik (who isn’t paying me to say he is a master of this genre) has an imagination that makes him deserving of a free ticket on a one-way trip to Mars. Elizabeth Tasker (an astrophysicist who builds galaxies in her computer) will keep your plane safe if you’re on her next flight, using the powers of her mind.

I disembarked my flight from Kyrgyzstan in Toronto to discover the managing editors at Travelers’ Tales were filling my inbox with the most wonderful embarrassments, misadventures, and filth on planet Earth for Wake Up and Smell the Shit. Without thinking (the way we don’t when we fire off an email), I responded to them:

I’m back from Kyrgyzstan. And I blame you all for not only the fact that I pooped my pants for the first time in my life but that it was so explosive that I back-sprayed the toilet seat lid behind me and Jackson Pollock-ed the rear wall of the outhouse (no hyperbole). I was so shocked when I shone my headlamp on that wall at 4:00 a.m. that I thought the vandalism of feces must have come from someone else, and I was disgusted that I hadn’t noticed the state of the outhouse when I’d entered. Then I felt the wetness up the inside of my coat and all the way up my back. I realized the stucco of excrement that painted the interior of the outhouse was mine—it was all mine. At 4:00 a.m. I started cleaning the building with my limited supply of Kleenex Splash ’N Go! wipes and revolted myself so much that I also vomited on my bare feet and flip-flops. At 6:00, I was pretty sure the hosts at the yurt camp knew it was me who’d reeked destruction because they offered me vodka and chili peppers for breakfast.

James O’Reilly (Publisher) replied:

Kirsten, perhaps this outrageous little “tail” of yours could be deftly inserted into your own preface/intro. It is so good, and such a great example of how shit happens even to the most experienced of travelers, and with such reward—the memory, the humor. I still regale my daughters with my slabs of concrete shit in the Khumbu, back in 2002, when I had the misfortune to spend too many days sharing a tent with Larry [Executive Editor at Travelers’ Tales].

Sean O’Reilly (Editor-at-Large) replied:

You want her to insert her tail into this? After hearing about what her tail is capable of I would treat her ass like Chernobyl.

Sean has a tale in this book and you’ll soon all know what his tail is capable of, too, which brings me back to schadenfreude. I don’t want bad things to happen to people, but it’s a joy when a bad thing happens and they share the story afterward. The writers in this volume reveal their hugest humiliations and trip disasters. Don’t feel guilt as you enjoy their horrors. It’s no longer “at the time” when it wasn’t funny. They’re delighting in “regaling” you now.

Kirsten Koza
Ontario, Canada


Kap’n Cy
Gary Buslik

You Go in the Morning, I Go at Night
Emma Thieme
Caribbean Sea

The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Johanna Gohmann

If Pigs Could Fly
Meghan Ward
Goa, India

When the Empire Strikes Back
Paula Lee
England and France

Costa Rican Red and a Golden Shower
Beth Mercer
Nosara, Costa Rica

A Real Good Deal
Dana Talusani

The Battle of Waterkloof
Gerald Yeung

Cold London Summer
Nigel Roth
London, England

Going Feral in Filoha
Vanessa Van Doren
Filoha, Ethiopia

Because It Was a Sunday
Reda Wigle
Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

The Chocolate Egg Bomber
Elizabeth Tasker
Japan to Vietnam

Friendly Skies
Gazelle Paulo

The Córdoban Crap
Shannon Bradford
Córdoba, Argentina

My Night in a Shipping Container
Dave Fox
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A Bad Day
Jon Penfold

The Holy Grail
Spud Hilton
Valencia, Spain

The Spittle Express
Scott Morley

“’Allo! ’allo, ’allo, ’ahhhhhllo!”
Katka Lapelosová

A Bed of Fists
Keph Senett

The Big Forehead of Newfoundland
Dawn Matheson

A Real Piece of Americana
Sarah Enelow

The Bone Breaker
Kasha Rigby

A Tale of Two Toilets
Leanne Shirtliffe
Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

Spanking It in the South Pacific
Tom Gates
Yaqeta Island, Fiji

Biannual Belgian Blowout
Kimberley Lovato

What I Did in the Doll House
Sean O’Reilly

Love in a Black Jeep Wrangler
Kyle Keyser

Africa à la Carte
Jill Paris
Lamu, Kenya

Postcard from Kenya
Andrew Schwartz

I Had a Passion for the Christ
Melanie Hamlett


About the Editor

Melanie Hamlett

I Had a Passion for the Christ

She wasn’t a Jesus Freak until she freaked for Jesus.

As fifty other tourists and I entered the cave, a man dressed in a pharaoh’s outfit handed us each a cracker and a teeny-tiny wooden cup of grape juice, which looked like a shot glass from biblical times. It was The Last Supper and we’d be breaking bread with Jesus himself in T-minus five minutes.

I wasn’t Christian and I didn’t believe in Jesus anymore, but I thought it might be kind of fun to visit the Christian-themed amusement park in Orlando, Florida. One of my favorite things to do is immerse myself in a culture that I usually make fun of in order to understand it better. I figured spending the day with Bible thumpers at a Jesus amusement park might help me see religious folks in a new light.

After exploring Noah’s Ark, which had nothing but a cardboard cut-out of Jesus and an arcade game, I took a stroll through a giant plastic purple whale, where I found my man, Jonah, floating around. I tried to show off my vocals at “Celebrate Jesus Karaoke,” but people didn’t respond well to my performance of the only non-gospel tune in the book, “I Believe I Can Fly.” I even endured a frighteningly patriotic show, the only one at Holy Land not based on a Bible story, called “The God Bless America Show,” and applauded along with the crowd as the man in uniform on stage proudly announced he didn’t mind being crippled for the rest of his life because getting shot in war was God’s will for him.

At first it felt disrespectful being a non-believer among all these good Christian men and women, like a Russian spy wandering around the Pentagon. But then it occurred to me I’d always felt this way. Even as a kid I thought Jesus was a load of crap. Sure, I’d attended Sunday school, prayed a lot, and sung in the church choir through my sophomore year in high school, but only to make my mom happy.

As soon as I hit sixteen, though, I decided to do what I darn well pleased, mostly drugs. While all my peers spent Sunday mornings studying the Bible in church, I was always hot-boxing a joint in the parking lot or rummaging through the church kitchen with a bad case of the munchies. My mom finally dropped her good-Christian-daughter-agenda after I was busted drinking and smoking on a choir tour and sent home in a van two days early. Here I was though, a non-believer standing in a cave elbow to elbow with a crowd of Gentiles.

Once the disciple guy finished his little speech, Jesus entered the stage, cave left. I’d expected him to be the typical, distorted white version of Jesus from my childhood, or maybe even the Mel Gibson version from that terrible movie about torturing Jesus. But never in my wildest dreams had I envisioned a young hippy fella so h-o-t, hot. Dear God! With long dirty-blond hair, blue eyes, and a beard, he was a Legends of the Fall version of Brad Pitt. Having been a rafting guide and ski instructor for most of my twenties, I’d always dated rugged, mountain-man types. Since moving to New York City a few years earlier, though, I hadn’t been able to find such earthy-type guys. Until now.

After we listened to Jesus’ painfully long monologue about cannibalism, ate our tiny crackers, and downed our shots of grape juice, Jesus finished the show by coming out into the crowd and touching people. He made it a point to lay his hand on all fifty of us saying, “Bless you my child” to adults and children alike. While I knew he wasn’t Jesus-Jesus, only the actor playing Jesus, I couldn’t help but catch the Jesus fever in the cave, now looking at him almost as a force larger than life.

When it came my turn to get touched, I was a nervous wreck. I’m sure I must have looked like someone straight out of a snake-slinging tent revival since my knees buckled the moment his strong manly hand connected with the spaghetti straps on my shoulder. Blood instantly rushed to my neck and checks, making me blush, and goose bumps popped up all over my arms. Unfortunately, our little moment together was ruined by the sound of my empty wooden shot glass hitting the floor. My poor hand just couldn’t concentrate on holding it anymore. When I came back up from retrieving the shot glass, Jesus had already moved on to touching the kid beside me.

I couldn’t figure out what in Jesus’ name was happening to me. It’s not like I was looking for God. I’d already found a new one years ago, one that didn’t create a hell or send people like me to it just because we once stole a thousand dollars worth of merchandise from Disney World as a teenager. I honestly didn’t care about this Jesus guy or the Bible, and yet here I was falling under his Christian spell.

Just as I was finally starting to pull myself together, Jesus came up from behind and touched me. AGAIN! Now, I don’t mean to brag, but I’m the only one in that entire cave who got touched more than once. Not even the children in front of me or the two women beside me in wheelchairs got it twice. After it was all over, I went to follow him out of the cave, but I was told Jesus had to go “pray in the gardens now” (i.e., costume change in the green room). The people around me chanted, “Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!” over and over as we were escorted out another door by the pharaoh-looking guy who’d dealt out the crackers. I know this is a bit of a stretch, but at the time, part of me thought perhaps this Jesus dude had been flirting with me. He was just a man after all, and men can’t help themselves sometimes.

Now that I had the Jesus fever, I was on a mission to see as much of him as possible. I went to several shows, including “The Women Who Loved Jesus.” It only seemed appropriate. The stars of this show included his mom, a pissed-off hooker, some woman who was almost stoned to death by a crowd of angry men, and a lady who’d been bleeding for twelve years due to some strange, unexplained disease. You’d think after all my training I would have known my Bible stories a little better, but I was totally lost for the entire show.

If I hadn’t been there to see Jesus, my feminist self would have been highly insulted by the content. One pathetic woman after another gave a long-winded speech about how no man cared about her. Then, like a superhero, Jesus would swoop in, she’d cry, he’d save the day, they’d embrace, then she’d give another speech after he left about how obsessed she was with him. They all said phrases like, “I’ve never loved anyone the way I love that man,” and “I think I love him in a…different way,” or my personal favorite, “No man has ever touched me in that way.”

Whenever Jesus wasn’t saving some damsel in distress, he was hanging out in the streets of Jerusalem with his homies. Like John Travolta’s character in Grease, he was the guy every man wanted to be and the hunk every woman wanted to screw. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when out of nowhere a bunch of Roman guards ran on stage and started flogging their hero. At the end of the show an announcer came over the intercom and told us not to miss the follow-up grand finale called “The Passion of the Christ” outside in twenty minutes.

Given the sexual overtones in this last show, one might assume “The Passion of the Christ” was going to be some sort of soft porn, but I had a sneaky feeling it would be a live version of that awful Mel Gibson flick. I usually have a pretty weak stomach, but I couldn’t get enough of Hot Jesus.

After all two thousand of us were herded outside and situated behind ropes like kids awaiting a Fourth of July parade, Jesus came out into the crowd wearing a white robe and hippy sandals. Sweaty with a bad case of bed head, his mood was somber as he walked around giving another one of his long-winded speeches. Afterwards, a group of Roman guards tackled him to the ground. They were pretty hot themselves, each wearing gold-plated six-pack covers and flowing skits that showed off their soccer legs.

They dragged Jesus over to some fake rocks, where Satan awaited him. Sporting a black robe with a hood, like a character out of Harry Potter, Satan now had his chance to make a speech. Everyone boooo-ed of course, which pleased him greatly.

Once the guards ripped off Jesus’ robe, leaving him in an ancient Depends diaper, they bound his hands to a wooden post with rope. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was some sort of old-timey S&M porno. Each time a whip hit his back, the loudspeakers belted a “crack” sound and fake blood magically appeared. With every lash, Jesus violently arched his back and moaned, sometimes even making the o-face. This amused Satan, who laughed hysterically like he was at a taping of Saturday Night Live.

When they were done with the whipping part, the hot guards, now sweaty and jacked-up on testosterone, dragged Jesus out into the audience and kicked him in the kidneys repeatedly. By this point in time, my emotions were all over the place, ranging from disgust at a place that would let little kids watch such violence to fear over how un-phased the crowd was by this insanity. Then Jesus landed on all fours on the ground in front of me, covered in blood and sweat and so scantily clad I could almost see his junk through the diaper. I soon realized I was, more than anything, unbelievably horny.

But you would be too if you were a single thirty-two-year-old woman who hadn’t had sex, much less been kissed or even touched by a man, in a year and a half. The baby-making organs of a woman in her sexual prime will latch onto anything that seems promising, even the Son of God.

It’s not that I am a celibate prude. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was prone to the addictive feast-or-famine approach to life—the one where people like me often times take a good thing too far and turn it into a bad thing. After my last binge a couple years ago, I’d decided to cage the little feline for a while. It’d been pretty easy to abstain . . . until this Jesus guy showed up.

No wonder I reacted so strongly to Jesus touching me in the cave. Maybe it hadn’t been a spiritual experience at all—just a sexual one. And that tent revival reaction of mine was probably just Jesus jolting awake hormones that’d been on snooze for too long. After the touching incident, the whipping, and now, here in front of me, a sweaty, handsome hippy with the body of a swimmer bent over doggy-style, my inner tiger smelled blood and desperately wanted out of her cage.

There wasn’t much I could do with all this arousal other than continue to watch and take some pictures. Eventually the guards put a thorny crown on his head and made him carry a log, all the while continuing to beat him. I couldn’t believe he just kept taking it, like a man, never giving up.

Once he was up on the cross, the guards pounded huge spikes through his hands and feet. (The special affects at Holy Land were some of the best I’ve ever seen, by the way.) They let the poor guy hang up there for quite a while, which was kind of boring to watch until one guard gave him a sponge bath and another speared Jesus in the gut. I must say, even nailed to a cross, the guy looked hot. And that six-pack! I’ve never been a fan of buff guys, but Jesus had one of those lean-yet-toned figures I always fell for. Sure, I felt bad staring at him “that way” while the people around me cried, but I couldn’t help it. This was the first near-naked man I’d been around in ages.

I’m sure you know what happened next. He died. The guards took a hammer to his hands and feet to get the nails out, lowered his perfect body down from the cross, then wrapped him in a white sheet and carried him through the crowd down to a tomb. Satan made a victory speech, and again, the crowd booed.

After the tomb exploded, Jesus appeared again, only this time he’d had a wardrobe change. All cleaned up now, he wore a white flowing nightgown, gave another speech, thanked his dad, then held up a set of enormous golden keys in front of the crowd. Anyone who wanted keys to his place, he said, they were there for the taking. Hell yeah, I wanted keys to his place! If only he weren’t speaking metaphorically.

All of a sudden, a bunch of angels dressed in white and gold disco outfits gathered around him and started twirling, like dancers at a Grateful Dead show. Their gold, sparkly wings fluttered and made cool designs, a visual routine that would have blown the mind of anyone on acid.

We were told to follow the angels to heaven, so all two thousand of us walked about fifty yards away to a gold and white amphitheater where we were met by even more dancing angels. After about ten minutes, Jesus finally showed up, casually late to his own party, only now he wore a non-thorny crown and a King’s robe. As he walked down the aisles, people held their right hands up and screamed “Praise Jesus!” again and again.

Not only was the train of his robe longer than Princess Diana’s wedding gown, but he had the aura of a real king. While I’ve never actually dated a guy with money, I’m still just as much of a sucker as any woman for a handsome man with power and loads of cash. And don’t forget fame. He wasn’t just the most popular man at Holy Land; he was the most famous person in the world. Even more so than Brad Pitt.

Satan made one more appearance, but Jesus had the upper hand now. He threw Satan on the ground by pointing his staff at him and using his superpowers. Two disco angels picked Satan up off the ground and lassoed him with a gold rope before escorting him out of Heaven, once and for all.

As the crowd continued to cheer and Jesus reveled in his glory, I started to wonder if maybe I had a shot at hooking up with him after the show. I mean, I was on vacation and that was usually the only time I ever hooked up with cute guys. Even though I wasn’t the prettiest woman at Holy Land, the odds were definitely in my favor. There was absolutely no competition—most good, Christian women wouldn’t even consider banging the Holy Spirit. And certainly not in the backseat of a car or in a public restroom like me.

After the show was over, I went looking for Hot Jesus, but he was nowhere to be found. I was willing at this point to even settle for one of the hot Roman guards, but they must have made a dash for the green room, too. After wandering around, looking for any guy in a costume, I finally gave up on Holy Land and left. Defeated.

Back in NYC, I started noticing a dramatic change in my body. I’d be on a crowded subway or waiting in an hour-long line at Trader Joe’s when, all of a sudden, I’d have that knee-buckling experience if a man so much as brushed up against me. These were not good-looking men, or men I’d even consider hooking up with. They were still men though, and I was a single, horny woman in her thirties who still hadn’t been touched by anyone in almost two years, except for Jesus of course. Being a hormonal landmine of sorts, I knew I needed to do something.

One day, as if by divine intervention, a kid next to me on the subway grabbed my leg. For the entire subway ride he made sure he always had a hand on someone, if not me or his mom, then another adult close by. It occurred to me at that moment that perhaps I wasn’t a horn-ball or a sex-crazed psycho, but rather a human being who just needed to be touched. The need to have physical contact with another human being doesn’t go away just because we grow into adults. In fact, once I thought about it, I bet half the men I’d hooked up with in the past had been out of a dire need be hugged.

I knew then and there that I had to find another way to survive in such a dark, lonely city like New York, lest I settle for a boyfriend who’s bad for me. So thanks to Jesus, I do what I think any smart single woman ought to do. I pay someone to touch me. Twice a month, I treat myself to a massage. Until, that is, I meet a guy as nice and cute as Hot Jesus.

~ ~ ~

Melanie Hamlett is a writer, comedian, adventurer, and three-time Moth Storyslam winner who’s based out of Los Angeles, New Mexico, and New York City, when she’s not sleeping on couches or in a tent around the world, or in her truck traveling across America. She’s been featured in multiple podcasts, including the Risk! podcast five times, has been published in Marie Claire, Nerve.com, and the book Leave the Lipstick, Take the Iguana (in which this story first appeared). She can be seen performing all over New York City and Los Angeles at places like The Upright Citizens Brigade and The Moth. She’s also a frequent monologist for the hit show, Assscat. She tells picture-stories about her travels as a wandering narcoleptic at melaniehamlett.com. She’s represented by literary agent, Scott Mendel.

Kirsten Koza is a humorist, journalist, adventurer, expedition organizer, and the author of Lost in Moscow: A Brat in the USSR. She’s a contributor to Travelers’ Tales anthologies, and her stories “Chasing Tornadoes” and “Mare’s Milk, Mountain Bikes, Meteors & Mammaries; a Nipply Night in Nomad’s Land” are in The Best Women’s Travel Writing, volumes 8 and 9. And her misadventure “Easter Island: The Chilean with the Brazilian” is in Leave the Lipstick, Take the Iguana.

She’s a journalist at TheBlot Magazine (Wall St., New York) and covers topics such as cannibalism, bullfighting, dildos, Putin, gluten, twisted travel, tropical diseases, gross food, and outrageous world politics.

Kirsten also leads writing, photography, and eating expeditions around the world for Writers’ Expeditions (www.kirstenkoza.com). She received a B.A. in Theater from Dalhousie University (Canada) and completed the Post Grad program at East 15 Acting School (London, England).