On Wednesday October 18th, the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies hosted a talk about “The North Korea Challenge in US-China Relations” with guest speaker Dr. Jeffrey Lewis who is a professor and Director at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. It was definitely a very interesting and entertaining talk regarding the China’s relation with North Korea’s nuclear program and how that impacts China’s relation with the United States. Dr. Lewis first gave a very brief yet detailed timeline of North Korea’s nuclear program. He explained that the United States keep track of North Korea’s nuclear program based on the types of images that are released and from satellite. Based on the shape of fumes, time of take off, height, shape of the missile, these analysts are able to deduct the type of nuclear missile North Korea has. I found this very impressive. A very important point from the talk that I learned is that there is a massive gap between how the U.S. views North Korea and China and how they see themselves. The United States don’t take them seriously since we still have this view that they are still aren’t technology advanced enough. Meanwhile, these countries see themselves as catching up to the United States. Therefore, we need to start taking them seriously. They are now strong countries with advanced nuclear programs. Also, a fun fact that I learned is that China’s relationship with North Korea isn’t as tight as we might assume. China sent a letter to North Korea saying they shouldn’t launch the missile, but North Korea ignored them. Also, Kim Jong Un had his uncle executed to send China a message after the uncle started having warm relations with China. From this talk, I learned that international relations is a very tricky and complicated field with many motives and factors that are in play.
For the longest time, the United States has been on shaky ground with North Korea. With the current presidential administration, it has deteriorated even more. I don’t think that Trump has a filter between his brain and his mouth and realizes that he is the President of the United States and is the figure head of America. Watching the recent Twitter/speech back and forth insults between Trump and Kim Jong Un, while slightly funny and entertaining, is also unnerving. Two nuclear powers with one being the dictator of a country and known for executing people are flinging insults at each other. North Korea has been practicing their missile launches more frequently and has now announced that they are able to hit anywhere in the United States. That thought is pretty daunting. Instead of trying to negotiating peace and try to get on more friendlier terms, Trump simply retaliates by publishing an even more bold statement. While it is comforting to know that the United States is prepared to counterattack a North Korea missile, it doesn’t change the point that we are trying to aim for world peace, not start another world war or have a repeat of the Cold War. I am still waiting for the day when one of Trump’s comments about Kim Jong Un or North Korea finally crosses the line, angering Kim Jong Un to the point of finally carrying out actions he speaks of.
Puerto Rico has had a very rough year. Located in the Caribbean Sea, it got damaged by hurricane after hurricane with very little time to recover. The worse damage was caused by a direct hit by Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, around September 20th. It has caused massive blackouts across the island as well as many other problems such as no running water, food, and medicine. It is the aftermath that I believe caused devastation for its people. It has taken an extremely long time for buildings and infrastructure to be restored and get its people back to a normal life. After a MONTH after the hurricane hit, 88% of the population still doesn’t have electricity. Puerto Rico is a United States territory, a little fact that many people often forget. When a natural disaster occurs in the U.S., people from all parts of the country pour in aid and money to help restore the area as quickly as possible. I feel like that Puerto Rico did not receive the same type of treatment that Houston got when Hurricane Harvey hit. A lot of this has to do with our national government and the current President. Trump, being his typical self, did a lot of big talk but little action or at least not enough. Even now, months after the disaster, Puerto Rico has a very long way to go before it has full restoration. I don’t think we understand the extent of damage done since it has been speculated that the number of deaths reported is drastically lower than reality. Hopefully, Puerto Rico will eventually recover and take this opportunity to improve buildings and infrastructure for the island.
OU’s own India Student Association (ISA) hosted a Dhamaka Night, also known as the annual Diwali Night on November 3rd, 2017. The event was split into two places: the dances and performances were held in the Reylond Performing Arts Center on the North Oval and the dinner afterwards was located in Jim Thrope Multicultural Center. The performances were amazing and I was shocked to see so many people attend this event, the auditorium was nearly full! It was so cool to see all these talented students perform various types of dances and performances as well as hear the various types of Indian music. The food was amazing. It was typical Indian food that I do believe was catered from a local Indian restaurant. I was able to try an Indian desert called gulab jamun, which is a ball made of sweet mild solids that is deep-fried. The outside of the desert is brown while the inside is a creamy white. Thankfully we got there early since as we were walking out of the building, the line for food stretched all the way outside of the building and around the parking garage. They definitely needed more space to sit people and probably more food. I hope that there was enough food for everyone especially those who had to stand in the freezing cold. Overall, it was a really fun night with friends and getting to get a taste of Indian culture and cuisine.
After being a member of Informed Citizens Discussion Group (ICDG) during my freshman year, I was excited to learn that I was chosen to be an ICDG moderator this semester with my fellow Global Engagement Fellow, Noah. Every Friday, we would meet to discuss any relevant new topics that occurred that week from domestic politics to the newest medical breakthrough to weekly updates about a baby elephant. At first it was slightly forced to get the discussions going with the other members but over time and as we got to know each other, conversation flowed smoothly. What I love about this club is that as college students, we are very busy people trying to balance academics, health, and a social life, leaving very little time to read news nevertheless international news. We always seem to care more about events that happen close to home since it has the potential to impact us or people that we know, making the news relevant to us and thus important. Often times we forgot that other very important events are occurring elsewhere in the world. While it may not affect our lives directly, it still affects thousands of other people’s and we should still care and pay attention to them. We can always learn from other countries’s actions and events in order to not make the same mistakes as them. The best part about ICDG is that many people with various news interests come together to share about them. It is a great way to learn about what is happening in the world even if we don’t have the time to read the articles ourselves. I still remember learning about the Myanmar genocide from one of the members who has a huge interest in social rights. At the time, I have never even heard of the country Myanmar nevertheless about this tragic event occurring that was being overshadowed by America’s domestic drama. This club allows students to keep a worldly perspective and reminds them that there are more important events happening in the world than in college life.
First, I want to apologize for the lateness of this post. It has been well over two weeks since my summer study abroad program has ended, but this has been the first time that I have had the chance to sit down in front of a laptop for more than 20 minutes. Second, please forgive me for the bluntness, lack of eloquence and thought, and occasional grammar violations contained in the recent previous posts. They were all constrained to very strict criteria and word limits, limits that for the first time in my life I had to struggle to stay within. Now that the program is over and my grades no longer depend on the content and quantity of my posts, I’m now allowed to freely write whatever I want.
Learning Organic Chemistry I in a month in Italy has been one of the most academically challenging opportunity that I have faced and thankfully succeeded at. Even when I was in high school, I already started to hear horror stories about Organic Chemistry from older friends. I heard that ochem was the class that students would get their lowest grade in or how that was the class that made pre-med students change their minds about going to medical school. Even when I was applying for this program, I still had upperclassmen telling me that it was a bad idea to try to learn ochem. After hearing that, I wanted to prove them wrong. The first week was easy; it was mainly a review of general chemistry with some new information thrown in at the end. Each week, it got harder and harder. By the last week, there were so many different types of mechanisms being thrown at us, I would sometimes find myself combining elements of two different mechanisms in attempts to solve a synthesis problem. Every Thursday night, the night before the test, everyone would be sitting in their preferred studying spot. Mine was the second seat from the end of the right side of the right table in the library. I am so grateful that two friends and I started the unofficial Tuesday and Thursday Night Library study group. Whenever one of us had a topic that was still a little bit fuzzy or needed help solving a problem, someone would always be able to help. As the night went on and turned into the early hours of the morning, there would always be a few voiced comments about “this is hell” or “is it too late to drop the course”. In that moment, it might have felt like all those things, but looking back upon it, I have absolutely no regrets about doing this program and highly suggest other hardworking students to consider it. Learning ochem in a month, covering one week’s worth of material in a day, has taught me how to intensely and efficiently study in a short period of time, shown me just how far my academic boundaries can be pushed, but most of all, it has reaffirmed my belief that hard work and determination will help one succeed. I definitely wasn’t the smartest student in class and organic chemistry didn’t come the easiest to me compared some of the other students, but I put in the time and effort to truly understand all the concepts that were taught and I ended up as one of the top students in the class.
Besides Organic Chemistry (yes, there were other components to the program), I have gained a greater appreciation of the arts through awe-inspiring paintings like the Birth of Venus, majestic sculptures like the David, and ingenious architecture like the fortress of Arezzo. Through the culinary class, I’ve gained more insight on how much science is involved in cooking and every day life. I’ve always assumed it the only science in cooking would be about new bond formation and chemical reactions. The culinary class has taught me that there so much more than that such as pairing the right flavor chemicals together and there is always a scientific reason behind each cooking method. For example, I always assumed that the reason why we add salt into the water when cooking pasta is to lower the boiling temperature. While that is true, another reason is that the salt and starch in the pasta water actually helps the sauce stick to the pasta. Since we live in a such a consumerist society, we often forget about the arduous process behind making common products such as cheese and pasta. Being able to go to these factories and seeing these items be made has reminded me that there is a very laborious process and many people’s lives depend on the sale of these products.
Overall, this program has opened my eyes to so many different aspects of academics and culture. While there is a culture difference, the culture shock wasn’t as large as I expected. Some of the major differences are having to pay for water and bread at a restaurant, not having dryers and air conditioning in typical Italian homes, and crazy Italian driving. This summer has been one of the best summers I have ever had, and if anyone is even thinking about doing this program, do it. Plus, you get to learn a little Italian. Ciao!
- Caramel and Tiramisu; store on opposite of St. Peter’s Basilica
–caramel taste stronger than one in America, kind of like a light coffee flavor
–tiramisu was really sweet and didn’t really taste like the tiramisu cake
–combination too sweet
- Lemon and Pistachio; store two blocks from hotel
–lemon was sweet and sour at the same time and was really refreshing
–pistachio was a light green, very smooth and almost tasted like chocolate
–Best Texture: Pistachio was very creamy and smooth. There weren’t any bumps are rough spots in the gelato which is impressive since it is made from hard nuts. The gelato was very light, not too dense, and it just melted in my mouth
- Strawberry and Melon; store next to Vatican Museum
–strawberry had a rougher texture. Could feel the seeds. Made with real strawberries
–melon had a distinct taste like cantaloupe
–the melon overpower the strawberry
- Lemon and Peach; Paridiso
–lemon was less sour
–Peach had dark chunks of fruit
— Liked both flavors
- Mango and White Chocolate; Paridiso
–white chocolate was not good. Really thick and too sweet. Texture wasn’t like gelato, more like melted chocolate
–mango had a rougher texture
- Lemon and Strawberry; Sunflower
–lemon had the perfect balance of sweet and sour
–strawberry was very smooth with little seeds in it
–Favorite Combination: The lemon complimented the strawberry very well. They balanced each other with the sour of the lemon and the sweetness of the strawberry. The combination tasted like strawberry lemonade. I really like the two fruit combination.
- Mango and Peach (one flavor); Creme
–taste interesting. Had more peach flavor than mango. It had a more pink color than yellow
–had contamination of chocolate so taste was strange
- Banana and Hazelnut; Sunflower
–hazelnut was really good. Reminded me of a light version of nutella
–banana taste not very sweet. Texture like mashed banana
- Lemon and Acerola; Punto
–lemon had tiny bits of yellow rind in it. Made gelato more texture and extra flavor of the slightly bitter peel
–acerola was sweet, but not too powerful. Reminded me of candied cherries. Texture was really smooth
–Best Overall Gelateria Experience: There weren’t many people in the gelateria so ordering didn’t feel rushed. I really liked the gelato and had time to actually enjoy trying the new flavor. Also, I didn’t get melted gelato over my hands. Plus, there was great company that night.
After being a month in Italy, I’ve tried a lot of different Italian food but definitely not everything, especially the squid ink pasta. I’ve come to the conclusion that Italians are really good at making a specific selection of food. Italians are amazing at making pasta, pizza, and dessert, but the rest of the selections are decent. I feel like that nearly all the restaurants I’ve been to in Italy, whether it was in Rome or Arezzo, all serve roughly the same selection of pasta and meats with a slight variation between restaurants. Most restaurants serve the same types of pasta such as tagliatelle, ravioli, gnocchi, and tortellini with mix and match of various sauces. I’ve also noticed that their diet mainly consists of carbohydrates through pasta and pizza. I wonder how Italians stay in such good shape with all the carbs in their diet. It might be due to the fact that Italians walk nearly everywhere while in America we drive our cars to a place that is 3 blocks away. They also keep their vegetables very plain with simple ingredients. At many places, the only vegetable options are either a mixed salad or grilled vegetables. In America, especially in Couch Cafe on campus, the vegetables are often drenched in a thick creamy sauce to make them taste better but takes away the vegetables’ nutritional values. We definitely can learn from the Italians on how to make more nutritional vegetables.
I’ve had some very good culinary experience such as trying gnocchi and carbonara for the first time. Before coming to Italy, I’ve never even heard of gnocchi or knew that pasta can be made from foods besides wheat flour. The first time I had gnocchi was at a restaurant in Pisa. The taste and texture was very different than regular pasta; it was softer and more chewy with a stronger starch taste. It definitely took several bites to adjust, but afterwards it has become one of my favorite pasta. The first time I tried carbonara, it was a restaurant called Tortello and it sadly didn’t go well. Not only did the restaurant run out of all types of pasta expect for penne, but also they really under-cooked the pasta to the point where the inside of the pasta still had a ring of white. Despite the pasta disappointment, the carbonara sauce was amazing. I could definitely taste the eggs in the sauce, and I was surprised that I actually liked it since I normally detest any egg-tasting foods. When I had the next opportunity to replace my first bad experience with carbonara, I immediately took it. That dish was one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had. I know for a fact that I will never be able to emulate the same quality of carbonara I had in Italy back in the United States.
The only major culinary disappointment that I have had was when I was in Naples. Being located so close to the coast, I had high expectations for their seafood dish. On the second night, I ordered a seafood risotto which had calamari, mussels, clams, and shrimp. The risotto wasn’t fully cooked so that every time I took a bite of the pasta, it was really chewy and slightly hard in the middle. I expected the risotto to be a lot more softer and didn’t require so much effort to swallow it. Due to my bad luck, a lot of the seafood such as the mussels and the clams still had sand in it. There would be times where all I would taste would be gritty sand which I had to spit out in my napkin. I spent the rest of dinner trying to pick out pieces of risotto to eat while trying to avoid getting mouthfuls of sand. The seafood quality was just decent; they weren’t particularly fresh.
Overall, Italian cuisine is very complex with its many courses, but each dish is very simple. For the first course, it is the pasta with some type of sauce with an occasional meat in the sauce. The second dish is usually just the meat. If one wants a side, they must order it separately. In the United States, the side dishes normally come on the same plate as the main course. I think by keeping the food on separate dishes, it prevents people from overeating since all the food isn’t on one dish. One major difference that I noticed is the pizza. I’m so used to having take away pizza that is pre-sliced into eighths that I can eat with my hands. In Italy, I have not seen a single restaurant or cafe that serve sliced pizza. You have to buy the whole pizza and the pizza isn’t cut. I’ve noticed a lot of Italians who would eat the entire pizza using a fork and knife. The pizza, especially the bottom crust is very hard to cut through so sometimes I would cut half way through and then use my hands. I guess the Italians don’t see pizza as finger food. With Italian’s slower pace of life, I’ve noticed that dinner normally takes about nearly two hours long and the waiters are in no hurry of making customers who have finished their food to leave. Back at home, I’m so accustom to eating dinner at home in 30 minutes, so the pace of dinner was definitely a change that I had to get accustomed to.
When I return back to the States, I don’t know if I could go back eating store-bought pasta and frozen pizzas. There is no Italian restaurant in America that can compare to the quality of food in Italy. However, I’m definitely looking forward to my mom’s home-made Asian food and the large variety of food that America offers. Though I’m might wait several months before trying to open a box of hard, processed pasta or ordering Papa John’s pizza. Italy might have ruined Italian food for me…in a very good way.
I had the opportunity to participate in a pasta making class. Our instructor, Fabio, first gave us a demonstration. Afterwards, we made our own pasta. Flour is sprinkled on the board, then the flour is dumped in a pile. A hole is made in the middle, creating a volcano. An egg is broken in the hole as well as a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of oil. Using a spoon, everything is whisked together, using hands to slowly add in flour until it becomes a ball of yellow dough. Semolina flour is sprinkled on the board and on the dough. The dough is rolled out, alternating sides and adding semolina flour when it began to stick. Once the dough is thin enough to see the shadow of your hand when held up to the light, it is ready to cut in half.
Tagliatelle is made by rolling half of the dough into scroll. Using a knife, cut the dough into strips about 0.5 cm. It is cooked for 2 minutes and then put in pesto sauce. Ravioli is made by taking the other half of dough and folding and unfolding it in half. Then put spoonfuls of the filling made of spinach, ricotta, and nutmeg in a row in the center of one side of the dough, leaving a finger-width space between each filling. Moisten all sides of each filling with water. Fold the other side of the dough over and press between each filling to seal. Using the slicer, cut out each piece of ravioli. It is cooked for 2-3 minutes then put in butter and sage sauce. Gnocchi is made by mixing mashed potatoes, eggs, and flour. The dough is rolled into a snake and then slice into little rectangles. Each piece is rolled down a fork to create texture, allowing the sauce to stick better. It is cooked til it floats and then put in pomodoro sauce.
The tagliatelle was chewy and good with the pesto. It came in varying thickness and shape. The light ravioli sauce brought out the filling, which taste earthy. It was much thinner and softer than American ravioli. Though some ravioli had an overwhelming olive oil taste due to being at the bottom of the pot. The gnocchi was my favorite. It was very soft, like a pillow, and less chewier than restaurant gnocchi. The sauce complimented and stuck to the gnocchi really well.
We went to a gelato production facility to see a demonstration of how gelato is made. The president and vice president of the Association of Ice Cream Makers were there. The lady showed us how to make the fior di latte, the base for most gelatos. She first mixed the sugars: glucose, dextrose, and normal granulated sugar. The ratio determines how thick the gelato will be; dextrose prevents gelato from being too frozen and glucose makes it thick. Powder milk is added to make richer. Neutral powder is added to help ingredients angulate together. Local, fresh, high quality whole milk is added. Cream is added. The mixture is put down a funnel inside the machine that mixes, pasteurizes, and cools the gelato. It whips the mixture to force air into the liquid and make it more solid. The machine gets colder, to the negative degrees, than the gelato to make sure the gelato doesn’t melt. For small quantities, it takes about 20 minutes. When it is done, the gelato is poured onto a frozen track to prevent thermal shock.
In Italy, the production of gelato is important. There are many strict laws that gelato-makers must follow and those laws are constantly being updated. Also, they take their jobs very seriously and make sure that the product they make is safe for their customers. They still pasteurize the mixture even though the milk they use has already been pasteurized. They also take great care of making sure there is no contamination for those people who are allergic to nuts or eggs or are gluten intolerant. One thing that I noticed is that the gelato making process is very secretive. Each maker has their own special recipe with different ratios. They take great care in making sure no one knows the ratio. During the demonstration, everything was pre-measured and stored in measureless containers.
The fior di latte that we tasted was amazing; it tasted like milk. I never knew that flavorless gelato would taste so good. It reminded me of the milk-flavored popsicles that I used to eat in China. The gelato was very creamy and smooth, and sweet. It would just melt in my mouth, much softer than ice cream. The gelato did start melting quickly after I started eating it; it explains why it must be kept at low temperatures at all times. I defintely prefer gelato over ice cream.