Ryan Quinonez

My World

Medical Brigade

Less than ten days after my return from a semester abroad in Italy, I was off on another journey. This time it was to Honduras for a Global Brigade where students participated in a medical and dental brigade to provide health care to rural communities. Global Brigades goal is to allow volunteers to help resolve global health and economic disparities in under-resourced communities to improve the quality of life.

Throughout the trip, the 45 other students and I assisted in patient triage, pharmaceuticals, dental, health education, and shadowed local doctors during consultations. From the airport in Tegucigalpa, we took a brigade bus to our compound in San Lorenzo. This journey ended up taking about 6 hours (2.5 without road construction). We then ate dinner, packed medications and health bags, and had our first introductory meeting.

For the following three days we had the medical and dental portion of the brigade. Each morning, we would travel for about an hour and a half to a rural community and set up a clinic for the people living there. When we arrived, there was always a huge line that wrapped around the entire elementary school. For most of these people, the nearest hospital or clinic is many miles away and the cost is often too expensive. We rotated through the 6 different stations: data informatics, triage, consultation, gynecology (only for the female brigaders), dental, pharmacy and charla. On the final day, we had the public health day where we built eco-stoves for many households.

In 4 days, we helped over 600 patients. We are truly blessed and we don’t deserve as much as we have. I thank God for keeping us safe and giving me the opportunity to make a difference. Although school can be tough at times, by helping that one person makes it all worth it.

Europe

On January 15, 2017, I boarded a plane to Arezzo, Italy, with no clue as to what the next four months would bring. The day was finally here, I was so nervous but beyond excited; after a year of planning, saving, preparing, and anticipating, the time finally came to start my four-month journey abroad.

Fast-forward five months: it is May 11 and as I make my way back to Oklahoma City I am watching the country that I’ve grown to love get smaller and smaller. I lived in the beautiful and historic city of Arezzo, ate the most delicious food, and experienced more in 4 months than most people will in a lifetime.

What we see on our friends’ Facebook and Instagrams— pictures of beautiful European architecture, fancy cuisine, and breathtaking pictures — is not all there is to studying abroad. It is an adjustment and it can be difficult. There are times when all you want is actual peanut butter to calm your crave, some actual Mexican food (for me Fuzzy’s or Tara’s), or just being able to lay in your own bed. You become frustrated because you can’t drive to the grocery store, and all you want is to talk, face to face, with your best friends who are going on with life back home in the states.

You will realize that you are in a city filled with the most amazing tiramisu and where wine is literally cheaper than water. You might not be able to drive to a grocery store, but you can walk along the beautiful cobblestone streets of Arezzo; walk down Corso Italia and stop in Bar Stefano for the best tiramisu you will ever have; and walk to the train station and go anywhere you want to go. Yes, you will always miss your friends — that never changes — but remember, these new friends are going through the same journey with you, and together you are experiencing things that only you can understand.

Never in my life did I imagine I could accomplish so much in four months. I traveled to over 32 cities and eight different countries. I visited the headquarters of the Catholic Church, rode on a gondola through the Grand Canal in Venice; had Belgium waffles, Belgium frites and Belgium beer all in Belgium; watched the sun set over the tuscan hills in Florence; partied until sunrise in Berlin; ate traditional Greek gyros while watching a Mykonos sunset; saved the Leaning Tower of Pisa from falling; traveled all the way back to Oklahoma and back, mid-semester; walked down the streets of Pompeii; went on a boat tour around the island of Capri; remembered at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam; skied in the Swiss Alps; and drank beer at a Guinness Book of World Record bar in Brussels. I spoke a few phrases of Italian, which I think came out more Spanish than Italian, and ate 1,000 bowls of pasta (and probably even more gelato). I learned so much about myself and grew up in ways I never would have imagined, and I made amazing friends and memories that can never be replaced. Arezzo, I love and miss you more than you will ever know. You will always hold a special place in my heart. I will be back.

Abroad pt III

Switzerland:

Switzerland, wow. Switzerland left me speechless. It is the most beautiful country I have ever seen. Although super expensive, we splurged in this couples vacation home in Lausanne, Switzerland, a charming and tranquil city right on lake Geneva.

We took trains all over lake Geneva and got to see the Olympic Museum, the Red Cross Museum and even to the peaks of the swiss alps to ski in the beautiful town of Verbier. These green valleys, picturesque villages, and sparkling turquoise lakes are every photographer’s dream. Switzerland has some of the most serene landscapes that I’ve ever seen. If you want to talk about places that will take your breath away, this is surely one of them. Partly from lack of oxygen, but mostly from these amazing views.

Spring Break!:

Rome, the first stop on my mom’s itinerary,  with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture, it was the perfect start to my family’s first time in Europe. There is Vatican City, which is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, and has St. Peters Basilica and the Vatican Museum which house some of the most important art pieces in history such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, there are ancient ruins such as the Roman Forum and the Colosseum that portray the power of the Roman Empire, and so much more.

The next stop, Venice! After coming here just weeks before, I was now the tour guide. I guided my family through the windy and maze-like streets of Venice and showed them all the top sites. On every canal you pass and every bridge you cross, you take hundreds of pictures that all look somewhat the same, but are all magical in their own way. This city was something else!

Amsterdam, one of my favorite cities in Europe. The city, the people, the food, the history, the culture, it was all special. Although most of my friends disliked the city, if you can manage to stay out of the city center and far away from the red light district, you will find everything you are looking for. We went to a super trendy brunch restaurant and had some of the best breakfast food I’ve had, the Van Gogh museum and admired his artwork for hours, back in time at the Anne Frank house, and we celebrated St. Patricks day European style. It was truly special being able to share these memories with my family.

What I’ve Learned From Studying Abroad

I’ve spent the last 5 months traveling the world. I have been to 10 countries, 44 cities, and have gained an endless amount of friendships. Here are a few things I have learned:

  1. Even if you don’t speak the language, smiling means the same thing no matter where you are. No matter where I traveled, people would still smile at each other regardless if they knew each other or not.
  2. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s not everyday that you get to live in a different country, so take advantage of this amazing venture. Study hard but don’t hold yourself back from exploring all that you can and taking in as much as you possibly can. Make the moments last because it goes by fast, like really really fast.
  3. I learned to take risks. Studying abroad itself can feel a bit risky. Living with people you don’t know, often in a language you don’t speak. But during my time studying abroad, my best memories were times when I took some extra risks.
  4. Live in the moment. There were so many people on my program that would plan every weekend months in advance. Yes it may have saved them a few euros here and there. But honestly, some of my favorite trips were from last minute planning. I remember it was a thursday night on the third week in Italy and some of my friends and I were studying in the library with no plans for the weekend and less than 12 hours were in Brussels.
  5. While maneuvering through several international airports and navigating through the cities of a foreign country, you begin to realize that you are way more resourceful than you thought. I learned how to get around the city, learned the metro system in different countries, and became dependent on myself in a country where I didn’t know many people.

As excited as I am to be home, I will forever cherish my memories of being abroad. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. Just remember, live in the moment, be spontaneous and experience the world as much as you can while you are there.

Abroad pt II

Weekend 2: Brussels

After some last minute planning, me, Trace, Emily and Steve (we lost Emily and gained Steve for this trip) were off to Brussels. It was one of our only full weekends and we decided to venture out of Italy.

Although this is a city you can see in one or two days (not 3!), it was definitely my cup of tea. Belgium is known for waffles, fries and beer, the perfect trio. Delirium cafe is a must stop on anyones visit to Brussels, it holds the Guinness Book of World Records for most beer available on tap. After 3 nights of going there, I didn’t even make a dent in drinking all the beers. My favorite was the Delirium Red, it is a kriek beer infused with cranberry’s and is a must try. Also try Trappist beer which is also famous in Belgium (I’m not sure if i’m allowed to talk about beer on here, but you can’t go to Belgium and beer not be a subject of discussion).

Fries, oh my, Belgium fries otherwise known as frites are the greatest invention ever made. Frite Land was a restaurant that sold just fries and for a cheap price. I could have eaten there for every meal while I was there and frankly, I think I did. (ps get samurai sauce)

The first day we were there we did a Sandeman’s tour of Brussels to get a footing of the city. Our tour guide was amazing, funny and very helpful if we had questions. We learned about the city, the history, and culture of Belgium. He also showed us some local spots to go to.

Weekend 3: Abetone

This wasn’t exactly the best trip I took in Europe but it was a learning experience for sure. Abetone is a ski town in Tuscany, yes I said Tuscany. It was surprisingly a pretty large mountain, but the conditions were very poor. The elevation isn’t exactly ideal so it rained instead of snowed. Since I didn’t brink my snowboarding gear with me, I had to settle with cheap gloves, sweatpants, a parka for a jacket, and no goggles!!! – not exactly the best snowboarding gear. Due to bad weather and insane wind speeds, only 2 lifts were open. If you’ve ever been snowboarding in the rain, you know it’s miserable. The rain soaked my sweatpants and parka and I was freezing the whole time but I still didn’t let that ruin my experience. Halfway through the day it started getting colder and even windier. The top of the mountain was a blizzard, the bottom of the mountain was a hurricane. Being an avid snowboarder and going with girls who had never skied before, it didn’t go so well. We were in the middle of the blizzard and these two girls couldn’t get down the toughest part of the run. After what felt like 5 hours (actually 2), we finally made it down the mountain and back to the airbnb. When we arrived … no electricity. No electricity meant no heat. Nonetheless, we decided to pack up early and head home. On the bus ride home, of course I would manage to leave my jacket on the bus which contained my eyeglasses, and half my money. RIP glasses. It was definitely the nail in the coffin.

Weekend 5: Pisa

Unfortunately due to some family issues I had to return home for a week. However, when I returned a group of us went to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was only a day trip and we only spent a couple hours in Pisa but it was a beautiful, warm and sunny day. The rest of the weekend I walked around Arezzo and tried to experience as much as I could of this amazing city that I wish I would have spent more time in.

Abroad pt I

Although I have been meaning to do this for the longest time, I have finally found enough time to fully reflect on my journey abroad this past semester. It’s been a hectic few weeks since I’ve been back, but now let me summarize my trips abroad.

Weekend 1: Trip to Florence

Going to Europe, even at the OU study center in Arezzo, I hardly knew any of the 60 people on the program. However, you will make friends quickly. It was on the layover on the way to Italy that I met Emily, Emily #2 and Trace. Anyway, the three of us decided to start small and go to Florence for our first week in Europe. This was my favorite group to travel with cause we were totally obnoxious and I’m fairly certain Italians hated us cause we were so loud. Although we didn’t do the super touristy things like see the David of Michelangelo or climb the Duomo, we relaxed and explored Florence.

The evening we arrived, we decided to hike to the top of Piazza San Michelangelo to see the most beautiful sunset in Italy and probably one the most beautiful sceneries I had seen in all of my travels in Europe. Locals and tourists flocked to this location for the magical and relaxed ambiance it portrayed.

After traveling through Spain, Portugal and England, and seeing hundreds of churches, the Duomo of Florence was one of my all time favorites because of it’s beautiful exterior. Although the interior didn’t quite match the outside, it still housed some of the most important artwork and frescoes in art history. Another museum/church I highly recommend is the Basilica of Santa Croce. It is filled with beautiful frescoes and holds the burial sites for some of the most famous people from Italy – Galileo, Dante Alighieri, Machiavelli, and Michelangelo.

This trip was the perfect kick starter for an amazing semester.

What makes wine so different?

Every wine is different. The same wine can taste different just hours apart from each sip – this is probably the greatest characteristic about this drink. With soda or beer, one knows what they will taste. The mystery behind every bottle of wine makes it so special.

As science has progressed so has the chemistry of viticulture. With the ability to separate yeast strains, winemaking can now be controlled to get a desirable outcome.No matter how fancy or expensive the bottle, every wine is compromised of mostly water and alcohol – only 2 percent of the chemical composition allows for any variety. But oh, how that 2 percent can vary.

Last week I went to a restaurant in Sorrento, Italy and tried these two different wines. The one on the left was a 2013 Chianti red ($5/glass) and the one to the right was the house red wine ($8/liter). Although I know nothing about the origin of the house wine on the right, I could tell it was a young wine, most likely from 2015. It was not the sweetest of wines. It did have a high acidity which means the alcohol content was lower; this was also represented in the slow viscosity from the tears on the side of the wine glass. Acidity in wine is the taste of tart and zesty. The glass on the left had a dark body, rich and complex. It had a low acidity and was sweet. It also had a bitter and dry aftertaste. This is due to tannins that dry out your tongue.

Each wine had its pro’s and con’s. The red wine to the left was complex and sweet but had a very bitter and dry aftertaste. The wine to the right was very acidic but also fruity. However, my favorite was the one to the left since it had a greater complexion and was less acidic which is what I like in a wine.

 

Carnival vs Halloween

Carnival in Italy is a big deal. Throughout the month of February, almost every city in Italy is invaded with costumes, masks, confetti, and a ton of parties that creates a very exciting atmosphere. Carnival is the last celebration before lent begins where Catholics give up something for 40 days until Easter in April. Many compare Carnival to Mardi Gras since they are during the same time period and have the same purpose. In America, Mardi Gras is a celebration where people party in crazy costumes, masks and beads all throughout the night. However, what many didn’t know is the many similarities and differences between Italian Carnival and Halloween. Carnival is important in Italy because it celebrates the Italian tradition that is slowly disappearing. Halloween shows the innovation of fashion based on movies, people and trends.

For both Halloween and Carnival, everyone dresses up in costumes. In America, the costumes are very creative, but for Carnival, everyone wears very traditional costumes that dates back centuries. Of course for Halloween, people party a lot but Carnival is on a whole different level. For Carnival, there are block parties all around the city, subways and buses are packed with drunk people, and many streets are blocked off to people drinking in the streets. Another similarity I noticed was that many people in both situations celebrate each tradition greatly and go all out. The main difference in these two traditions is their purpose. Carnival and Halloween are celebrated in totally different months and seasons.

One thing that I learned was that in Italy, Halloween is adjusting and becoming more popular, and in some cases, more popular than carnival. Of course in cities like Venice, Viareggio, and a few others where carnival is a serious matter it hasn’t, but in many cities, the towns do not invest much into their celebration as compared to Halloween. Many Italians will say that Halloween is slowly taking the place of carnival. But overall Carnival was a great experience. The entire city of Venice, and in a similar case Arezzo, erupted with music, life, costumes, and it became a huge party.

Tuscan Wineries

In the past two weeks, my Culinary Chemistry class has visited two wineries throughout Tuscany, Pomaio and La Vialla. Although both wineries are similar, each one has very different approaches to how they make their wine.

The first winery we visited was Pomaio. Pomaio is an eco-friendly/green winery estate with a very elegant and professional approach to their wine tour. In this wine haven, the organic vineyards are cultivated 550 meters above sea level with great exposure to sunlight and receives adequate amounts of rainfall. Throughout the tour, our guide introduced us to the different philosophies of wine cultivation, explained to us the importance of the wine cellar and how its eco-designed layout is similar to the method the Etruscans used, and a wine tasting coupled with the appropriate food to match the taste of the wine. Although they are a small micro-winery, they still produce around 15,000-20,000 bottles of wine per year, mostly of Sangiovese grape. Their production features 5 different labels of wine and two varieties of grapes, Merlot and Sangiovese. During the wine tasting, my favorite wine was the Porsenna which was 100% Sangiovese Cru because of the complex, fruity and structured taste.

La Vialla, although a green/eco-friendly winery like Pomaio, was much different than Pomaio in both their method of making the wine and their approach to how they do their tours. This winery is on a  3,316 acre, family-run agricultural vineyard, and is one of the oldest biodynamic and organic farm wineries in the chianti region. Since La Vialla has a much larger production of both red and white wines, their wine cellar was much larger than Pomaio’s. However, both Pomaio and La Vialla both had similar fermentation and production methods.

Olive Oil Tasting

Italian olive oil – a taste that confirms my best and worst suspicions. I am appalled by its complexity but yet even more appalled by how olive oil is still in business. Due to its strange buttery texture with minimal taste and a strange bitterness, olive oil has never been my favorite ingredient. However, in class we tasted a variety of different olive oils that ranged from strong bitter to mild bitter, strong intensity of flavor to mild intensity of flavor, and a strong aroma to mild aroma.

The four olive oils tasted were: Agricole Dioscesane, Buccia Nera, Conad and Tenute di Fraternita. The first oil tasted was Conad. The Conad olive oil had a medium bitter taste but did not taste acidic. The bitterness caused a little burn at the back of the throat. It had a medium intensity with a buttery texture paired with a mild aroma. The next oil tasted was Agricole Dioscesane. Agricole Dioscesane had a mild bitterness, a strong intense flavor of green pepper or black pepper, and medium aroma. The third oil tasted was Buccia Nera. This was Dr. Haltermann’s and I’s favorite olive oil because of the medium bitterness and medium aroma along with a strong, intense, and fruity flavor. The last oil tasted was the Tenute di Fraternita. This oil was very different from the other oils because it was darker and had a strong aroma. Also it was very bitter, acidic and had a strong and intense green pepper flavor.

In conclusion, with olive oil, you really do get what you paid for.

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