Illegal Gold Mining

Dear Reader,

Our Stanito’s correspondents from Colombia sent us a photo of what illegal gold mining looks like.

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Our source tells us that close to 80% of all the gold produced in Colombia comes from illegal miners. Colombia has also one of the highest rates of mercury contamination in the region, followed very closely by Peru, whose government’s efforts have achieved not much much in this fight. In basic terms, mercury is used to separate the gold from the rock. But then this chemical is tossed and wasted into the nearby water streams, leading to an actual ecocide.

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Colours of Managua

Dear Reader,
So much to tell about this remarkable and peculiar country. In the meantime, here’s a glance of what the centre of Managua by night, particularly its colours.

There is a lot you need to know about Nicaragua and especially about its politicians. Rumor has it Mrs. Ortega, the current President’s wife, is somewhat linked to witchcraft. Seriously, that’s what local people say. They say she loves colours and that in an attempt of having people forget about painful memories of the revolution’s colours red and black, she invested 20,000 USD for each coloured tree you see in these photos. Each of these trees has different bright colours and they all represent the Tree of Life, heavily inspired by Gustav Klimt’s 1909 painting Tree of Life. And I’m talking about few hundreds of these trees spread all over Managua. The old abandoned cathedral also went the same way but only on one side.

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An Old Crowded Jewish Cemetery

Dear Reader,

the lack of space can be a problem even for cemetery authorities. So in Prague I found this beautiful synagogue which has been facing a particular problem for many decades now…

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The cemetery is nearly 600 years old, and has about 12,000 tombstones packed in it. However, a curious fact makes this cemetery extremely over-packed with bodies…

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Nobody really knows when the cemetery was founded as there are gravestones that date back to 1430, earlier than what many people suggest. Either way, regardless its foundation date, this cemetery indeed managed to survive in the same spot for hundreds of years, accumulating thousands of bodies all stacked on top of each other forming layers, and here is why: according to Jewish tradition, no body can ever be moved from its original burial site, so when space became a problem, bodies were simply put in layers, now 12 deep. So given the piling-up of bodies it is estimated that in this place there are about 100,000 bodies buried in the ground.

The Stick Insect

Dear Reader,

A strange creature has been recently brought to my attention.
A few days ago a friend of mine posted a curious photo on his Facebook wall.
Something that looked like a peculiar tree branch was in fact the strangest little creature I have lately heard of. The Phasmatidae!

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Stanito: “Wow, it looks like a fortunate branch stick, where do you find these?”
Alain: “In Nayarit!”

Oh goodness, I go there all the time and I’ve never seen one…

This bizarre-looking walking stick is an intriguing insects that uses camouflage, mimicry and defence as a veritable art form. So interesting that it blends in perfectly with its natural habitat that it often goes completely undetected by would-be predators or walking-by Stanitos.
Its names comes from Greek and it says it all: Phasmatidae comes from ‘phasma’ which means ghost, apparition.
If you ever travel to the Pacific coast of Mexico there might be a few things you need to know in case you ever encounter one of these little phantoms:

  • The stick insect has an evolution that goes way back… Its roots reach back more than 200 million years, to the Triassic geologic period
  • Stick insects have suction cups and claws on their feet which enables them to wall up vertical surfaces and upside down
  • Approximately 1 in 1000 stick insects is male
  • The stick insect is the longest of all the modern insects and sometimes they measure more than 45 cm in length.
  • They remain perfectly motionless, especially during the day, with its forward and back legs outstretched, as if it were a twig of its host plant, making it very difficult to detect them. In fact, I’ve never seen one in spite of walking often into the jungle.
  • The Stick insect flexes its legs, swaying its body randomly from side to side, mimicking a lightly blowing twig. Stick insects not only look like sticks, they act like them, too. They play dead, stiffening their body, and fall to the ground to deceive predators and people.
  • Feed nocturnally, when the risk of detection by a predator is lower
  • Regurgitate an evil-tasting liquid through its mouth which makes it very unpleasant for people. Even though they are not harmful or dangerous to humans, their bites cause a very unpleasant and long-lasting itchy-painful sensation.

Beautiful Heidelberg

Dear Reader,

a long time ago I was visiting friends in this lovely, mysterious and curious town in Germany, no far from Mannheim. Heidelberg, dear Reader, where allegedly a dragon crashed and smashed an old castle.

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The Neckar River and a view of the Old Bridge

Heidelberg is also home to the oldest German university, the Heidelberg’s Ruprecht-Karls-Universität, founded in 1386.

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A very lucky shot overlooking this beautiful town

Many loved this town, even Mark Twain  loved it so mich that he moved here just to use its obspiration.

And is home to a hidden amphitheatre. Built by the Naxi party in 1935, it was used by the during WWII for rallies and solstice festivals. It is now preserved as a monument, but it is still used for many festivals and cultural events throughout the year.

 

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Stanito posing with Heidelberg in the background

Sea Snake caught on camera

Dear Reader,

let me brag and cheer on the Team’s latest developments: we have got an amazing camera now accompanied by its new under water case!

So happy. So we went diving in Vallarta hoping to spot manta rays. Visibility wasn’t the best but we still managed to capture precious moments with this marine snake

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The snake, quite probably hungry, stealthily moves towards little fish. 
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Peek-a-boo. Definitely a hungry snake, she hid inside her little cave waiting for our group to pass, we probably scared off her prey. This snake is no different from her overground mates: as soon as she saw her prey next to her she lifted and widened her head in a pose ready to attack the prey.

Here’s the snake on video:

Only in Mexico #2

Dear Reader,

The Travel with Stanito’s staff is all over Mexico capturing the best and most unique moments, and it comes to no surprise really that the funniest things keep happening on the road.

Travel Buddy Chris captured this magnificent moment on the highway road to San Luis de Potosí (Mexico): a truck carrying a what looks like an air turbine propeller.

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“Exceeding maximum dimensions” says the sign… what sounds like a rule it’s more like a warning that drivers may choose to ignore at all times.

 

 

 

Colourful Santiago

Dear Reader,

it is very rare to have a nice view of Santiago. The city, one of my hometowns, is famous for being constantly swallowed into a maze of smog. Constantly. Literally, every month of year except for mid spring and summer. Geography plays a key role here, the city is in a big valley surrounded by impenetrable hills and the Andes mountain range, so winds are often a rare phenomenon.

So when my big brother Stefano took this photo, I couldn’t believe it. I had to share it! This is Santiago de Chile like you almost never see it. Smog persists even in this picture but the contrast of colours make it a magnificent composition.

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Santiago seen from Piramide. Photo by Stefano Ferrari.

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!

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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:

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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.

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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!