How to Enjoy Mexico: understand its background first!

Dear Reader,

It’s been almost three since I moved to Mexico and I don’t feel I have fully explained this wonderful country. I wrote several posts on it and it will probably take several chapters to even slightly envision what Mexico is and it’s worth doing so. I want you to feel it as if you were here with me exploring this remarkable land.

The beautiful and shining Guanajuato town.

It sounds so basic and futile when you think about it, as if by reading the title the imminent thought would be “oh come on, no need for guidelines”. But believe me, there is a science behind the enjoyment of a new city or even country, especially one you hope to survive without stress and melancholy. You might also think that all it takes is to join a tour or simply read about it on a travel guide.

Learn how to make tacos. It’s fundamental in order to understand how delicious they can be…

Let’s take Mexico as an example. Mexico is a huge country full of colours, culture and above all contradictions. They say that here in Mexico you will find four stories: the one the Government wants you to believe, the one academic institutions want to teach, one that foreigners want to explain. And the last one, the one you have to discover yourself. And this is mine.

Mexcaltitan Restaurant
Cute little restaurant in Mexcaltitán, the Venice of Mexico

Certain beliefs and conceptions of reality characterise some populations more than others, and Mexico recalls images of ancient civilisations, plundering Spanish conquistadores and moustachioed revolucionarios. The many contradictions of this vibrant country lie in its unique history and are deeply reflected in the character and personality of the people. The expansive friendliness of norteños (Mexicans from the northern states) compared to the more defensive and rebellious southern Chiapanecos (people from Chiapas state). Mexicans can be intensely fatalistic, resigned even. And when the mood takes in, they are hedonistic and carefree. A reserved poker face will suddenly give way to astonishing warmth and familiarity.

Indigenous children from the sort of forgotten state Chiapas

We know Mexico’s first hundred years were bloody while the last eighty-five years have been at peace; it shares a long land border with the United states and yet they couldn’t be more different.
When the Spanish brought Catholicism, the missionaries took a very pragmatic approach to it and incorporated many beliefs from earlier religions. That’s why there are so many religious festivals here like Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the Muxis (gay/transgender divinity festival), the Guelaguetza and many others that blend Catholic celebrations with indigenous rituals.

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Mexico is dual.

It emerged from its bloody history and claimed its place in the modern world. And now globalisation and free trade is altering Mexican society once again.



Japan Love #1: The Art of Bowing

Dear Reader,

Tokiko is a Japanese lady based in Guadalajara. She teaches Japanese and loves Mexican food. She says she likes the corn interference with most of the dishes, which is quite unusual in her home cuisine.

Thing is 🙂 … I see her everyday so I have many many chances to ask her questions, share experiences, tell her how much I love Japan and how I would move there in a second!

One of my casual days in Tokyo.

She loves when people love her country so in return in our coffee moments she instructs me on important things I need to know in the event I move there. There are many things on the list but let’s start with the most important one: bowing.

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Ok it sounds easy. But after listening to her say on it… it isn’t as easy as you think.

I’m sure you have noticed that Japanese people bow at practically any occasion. Whether it’s about greeting a person, or apologising for something, a bow is always there. Believe it or not, there is an art and logic behind it: the more you bow, the more important and respectful it is.

Tokiko says that there three kinds of bow: Eshaku (会釈), Keirei (敬礼) and Saikeirei (最敬礼). Each one of this bow has a certain degree of “inclination”.

In the most informal settings and common greetings, you can use eshaku. With eshaku, the body takes a bow of about 15 degrees. It looks something like this:

The 3 kinds of bow you find in Japanese culture. Please note the angle of inclination in each situation.

Then there is Keirei. Keirei is a slightly more exaggerated inclination of the body. In the pictures you can see it with a 30 degrees inclination.
Keirei is what you do when you need to show a higher level of respect. Higher respect in Japan is shown towards senpai (先輩), someone who is of higher age, level or even class.
Is very common that school mates refer to the oldest of them as senpai. Also, students might refer to their teacher as senpai to show respect.

Another example of the bowing etiquettes. Notice how the head and looking direction of the person doesn’t change, the eyes keep fixed and the head remains straight.

And then we have the last kind of bow: Saikeirei. Seikeirei is the ultimate reverence gesture reserved for major occasions. You bow until 45 degrees of inclination (the fourth picture here above). This kind of bow is reserved for when you meet the CEO of your company, Prime Ministers and even the Emperor himself. Tokiko says that in such cases you need to stay inclined for at least 15 seconds to show the appropriate respect.
This kind of bow is also used for apologies. Apologies meant to mitigate disastrous situations: offending someone, destroying someone’s belongings, disrespect elders, etc.

Next post on this fantastic culture next week!

How to help turtles

Dear Reader,

My last trip left me with a huge question: how do sea animals responde to lunar cycles?
It all happened last week end…
We went to San Blas and found a turtle conservation center. There are many in Mexico and normally they take over the turtle eggs once the mother leaves them buried in the sand.


Turtle eggs and baby turtles are very delicate and vulnerable to predators. One of the worse ones is the seagull.

This is the container where the hatched babies are kept for few weeks.
My friend’s finger serves as a reference to understand their size. They’re absolutely tiny 🙂


The procedure is simple: few weeks after the eggs hatch the babies are ready to go into the sea. Because of the presence of predators, the center guardians protect them carefully to make sure that the babies are able to walk safely from the beach right into the water. This is to ensure that a significant number of them make it safely.

However, it happens that one of more baby turtles are unfortunate and/or somehow face bigger challenge. Below is a deformed turtle which never developed disproportioned limbs and one of them completely inexistent.

Deformed_Turtle_Center_San_blas_Mexico_Stanito_1 Deformed_Turtle_Center_San_blas_Mexico_Stanito_2 Deformed_Turtle_Center_San_blas_Mexico_Stanito_3 Deformed_Turtle_Center_San_blas_Mexico_Stanito_4 Deformed_Turtle_Center_San_blas_Mexico_Stanito_5

The moon revolves around the Earth in an elliptical orbit. But astronomically, these two bodies revolve around their own center which is also revolving around the sun. Because of this synchronised rotation and revolution of the moon, only the near side of the moon is seen facing the earth.

As common as this birth defect can be in animals, I found the explanation of the center guardian quite interesting. She explains that baby turtles can be born with defects and deformations due to lunar eclipses (in fact that had been one only few days earlier our visit).
So how does that work? How to marine creatures react to lunar eclipses?
The indirect effect of lunar cycle on the marine environment is the tide as in response to the gravitational pull of the moon to the earth.
This attraction is is strongest on the side of the earth facing the moon causing a bulge of water.
This is a schematic drawing that shows the high tides on the lunar portion of earth’s side.
There had been studies on the effects of lunar cycle on the behavioural patterns of marine animals. Some of these researches are focused on certain marine creatures that seem to show occurrence of lunar rhythms and their respective mechanisms to adapt with their environmental changes.
Some scientists also argue that certain animal behaviour is a response to lunar stimuli (like moonlight) while others reason that most marine animals have adapted to the long-term cycles and continue to persist because of “biological clock”.
The sun and moon cause rhythmic changes in our environment as in light, temperature in a predictable manner. These variations inevitably affect us humans, plants and animals and we can see how behaviour is adapted to these changes by improving and/or changing body parts that are no longer beneficial.
However… I still fail to find evidence that supports the notion that a lunar eclipse is harmful during turtle pregnancyso I think maybe it’s a myth or some sort of superstition. Humans are big on superstitions, remember my past stories on the most common Italian myths and believes?  This particular superstition about how lunar eclipse affects unborn baby animals is ingrained in India.
So what happened to the unfortunate baby turtle? Well, it was safely released the following dawn into the sea. Her limbs were disproportioned as you can see in the photos but they still allowed her to move around the box with her peers so hopefully she’ll manage to swim.

How to make Tacos with Stanito

Dear Reader,

as easy as it sounds, Mexican tacos are a work of art that takes time, dedication and passion. Stanito is going to teach not how to cook (I’ll leave this for next post) but how to prepare it on your dish and eat it.

Today I’m introducing to you the Blue Taco tortilla, that you can find in central-south of Mexico and which is characterised by a nice blue color. It’s really blue. It’s not because it’s gone bad of because of fungi. The tortilla is blue because it’s made out of blue corn, a kind of corn you find in central-southern states of Mexico with a unique blue pigmentation due to a high amount of anthocyanin that also acts as antioxidant.


First of all, you take the main course core food and place it on the tortilla. Make sure you put in the middle so that you have pace to add the next ingredients.

Exhibit A: Stanito is having breaded-fish taco

Once you placed the piece of fish on the tortilla, it is mandatory that you add guacamole. It’s a must, if you don’t do this it is a direct insult to Mexican Cusine world (and to Stanito!)

Exhibit B: Stanito is placing the guacamole in an orderly fashion


Because this is a fish taco, it is mandatory that you add lemon to it because fish requires this mostly all over the world or in those countries where people really know about food 🙂 (Mexico and Italy)

Exhibit C: Stanito is carefully putting lemon on the piece of fish to highlight its delicate taste


Mexicans like their food spicy and tasty, which means that if you have sauces in front of you, use them. They also like onion a lot, something that Stanito treasures very heartily. So gently place the onion on top of the fish and next to the guacamole.

Exhibit D: Stanito in this case is placing onion rings, which makes everything a bit more difficult because when the time comes to fold the tortilla the rings will break of won’t stay easily in it.


Give one last check to the taco. Check that you have everything you want in it, no onion ring is missing, and if you feel like adding chilli this is the time to do it.


Now you enjoy this delicious creation 🙂


And why not combine it with one of Mexican most famous drinks? Beer with clamato sauces.


Buon appetito!

For more information about real Good Food click here and here! 🙂

How to take photos of butterflies

Dear Reader,

Photos are awesome, and even more if you manage to take shots of particularly difficult animals. Clearly I’m still learning and I was VERY lucky this butterfly just stayed there on that flower for so long!

I can’t say butterflies are too difficult either as sometimes they do fly away slowly, but it is a challenge indeed when you see one so beautiful flying over a flower.

This is a butterfly I found in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. Michoacán is famous for its butterflies and every year you can witness the famous Monarch Butterfly migrating from south of the United States and Canada towards warmer Mexico.

These are some of the tips I learned (and still learning) as a beginner amateur photographer that I can pass you, hoping that your next butterfly stays as still as mine:

  1. Get a little down: Some of my best photos are taken lying down or kneeling. Not only butterfly seem to be less scared but also many of them, including monarchs, contrast beautifully against a blue sky background. It’s much better and more dramatic to have a blue sky background from ground level that merge with the butterfly colours.
  2. Get your settings right and play with them: It doesn’t matter how good your camera is if your settings are wrong for shooting butterflies outdoors. For instance, you’ll often need a faster shutter speed to prevent blur associated with a fast-moving subject. You can also play with your Settings in order to adjust the ISO (which is the sensitivity of the image sensor) to manage the movements of the butterfly and shoot it timely.
  3. Photo Editing Software: my camera actually does a good job by itself but if not there is rarely a photo or video you take that won’t need some editing. The editing program I use has lots of photoshop functionality, without the photoshop price and is included in my mac and it has served me well for the use of my blog readers 🙂

These are some things I use editing software for on a regular basis on my Mac Book with the Photo application within the new Yosemite theme:

  • cropping photos and centring them
  • sharpening images that are slightly out of focus
  • minor color adjustments or enhancements

Know thy camera, dear Reader, because colourful butterflies and humming birds move really fast so you want to try with a familiar camera to be ready at the right moment! Just have a few trials with your camera before attempting immortalise butterflies and other flying creatures. Stanito was purely lucky this time with the lazy butterfly 🙂 !

How to make your dreams come true: the Japanese Shinto ritual

Dear Reader,

I bet everyone you know would love to have a formula to make their wishes and dreams come true, and the sooner the better.
Well, Stanito, big Japan fan as she is, found the way to do it. The Shinto way to do it, to be more precise.
She found it for you in the outskirts of Tokyo in a mid-summer afternoon…

Continue reading “How to make your dreams come true: the Japanese Shinto ritual”

Fish auction: How to buy fish in Tunisia

Dear Reader,

Traveling can teach you even the most basic things. As our road trip around Tunisia taught Stanito valuable lessons on how to behave, how to drive, and other essentials, we also learnt very simple things like how to bargain, how to roll down sand dunes, how to pour tea, how to catch octopus and also how to actually buy fish in a real fish auction.

I know what you must be thinking. “Come on, how to buy fish? You just go, pick and pay!”
Well no dear Reader 🙂 in Tunisia buying fish is a lot more fun and different!

It all happened on a very hot afternoon in Djerba…

Continue reading “Fish auction: How to buy fish in Tunisia”

How to behave on a sailboat

Dear Reader,

Here is my first selfie while sailing on Trasimeno Lake. I’ve never done this before and I can guarantee it was a unique, fun amazing experience!

Stanito sailing

As thrilling and exciting as it was, it was actually the first time I’ve ever took charge of a sailing boat and I noticed the results of such thing as our boat almost flipped completely on one side. So I thought I could share in here the basic learning steps:

1- Never abandon the main wheel regardless of how strong a gust of wind can be;

2- Always listen to your partner, especially if he has experience;

3- Do not get desperate if at some point wind dies. It will get to you when you least expect it so enjoy the momentary calm by having a beer or sandwich;

4- If something bad happens—too much wind, man overboard, etc.—remember that you can bring the whole thing to a halt simply by pulling the rudder either left or right, or better, leave everything to your partner. The boat will (mostly) stop at some point.

5- Always get someone to join you so at least there will be somebody looking at the sails, the hardest part;

6- Beware of not running over sudden kite surfers;

Boba Purple Milk Tea: how to make it at home

Stanito has tried everything to escape the soffocating heat of China: she had many showers, drank lots of water and iced tea which made her even thirstier, she developed a new addiction to AC, wore very little clothes, and still nothing worked out for her.

In the end, when no hope was left, desperation and her good friend Ayame led her here one night… Continue reading “Boba Purple Milk Tea: how to make it at home”