YFU Switzerland

Earthquake, new beginnings and the loss of a beautiful person

Hello everyone,

It’s been a long time since my last blog post. In this time there has happened so much. Mostly terrible things.

But I’ll start from the beginning.

On monday, 11. of april, I left by bus to Machala, where I had been once earlier in October, to visit my friend Noelle and her host family. We spent a nice time and had a lot of fun.

Then on the 16th of april we went to a birthday party for Noelle’s grandfather. The whole family was having a great time until at about 7 pm. someone started moving my chair. Well, at least that was what I thought. It took me some time to realize that it was an earthquake. Most of the adults thought they were drunk at first until they realized. Luckily we were outside in the garden and the earthquake wasn’t that strong in Machala. But it still was very scary feeling the earth shake for more than one minute and not knowing what was going on. But then it stopped and we all calmed down. Until later that evening someone looked at the news on the phone and came to me saying “In Manabí there are dead people.” The city I live in, Portoviejo, is stated in the province of Manabí, so of course I got super scared and ran to pick up my phone, and saw I had more than 15 missed calls from my host family. Of course I called back immediatly and they told me that the earthquake had been extremely strong in Portoviejo, but that they luckily are all fine and there are no big damages where we live (a place a bit outside of the centre). I was relieved but still texted all of my friends in Portoviejo to know if they were fine. What luckily was the case.

Later that evening we saw the news and that was when I first realized how terrible it had been in Manabí. An entire village called Pedernales, where the epicentre was, has been destroyed, the big cities Portoviejo and Manta are destroyed, there are more than 700 dead people and thousands have lost their homes. To me it’s still unbelievable that this really happened. That it happened where I used to live and how lucky I am that I left Portoviejo just 5 days before it happened. Who knows where I would have been that day. Maybe in the centro, where so many houses fell apart as if they were made out of paper.

The news are still full of messages about the earth quake even though people have started to calm down.

It is really hard for me to see all the photos of Portoviejo, of the buildings I have walked past so many times and that don’t exist anymore. The worst for me is not being able to be there and just seeing everything from the distance. YFU hasn’t allowed me to return to Portoviejo to my host family, because the situation there is horrible. They are afraid of epidemics and aftershocks. I have never got the chance to say good bye to my host family or my friends and it makes me really sad. The other exchange students have been evacuated from the area too.

 

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The bad road conditions make it diffidult to reach the desperate people

I found some photos on the Internet, I would like to post here, so you can imagine what it looks like.

In the shop next to this destroyed building, that says “Enrique”, I went to cut my hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, now I live here in Machala and am trying to build a total new life for the last 2 months. I live with a very nice host family and my school is nice too. I have 3 host sisters that are 5, 8 and 19 years old.

But I will write more about that another day. There’s another message I would like to tell.

A german girl, that came here to Ecuador with YFU too and lived in Manta didn’t survive the earthquake.

I don’t even know how to write about it, it’s so incredibly sad. She was a girl just like me. With hopes, dreams and the desire to get to know a total new culture. I didn’t know her very good, but I have talked to her and she was so happy here in Ecuador. She felt at home here, had a strong relation with her host family and just loved her life here. And then this happens. Her and her host family went to buy things for school when the earthquake happened. They were missing about 4 days and I was so convinced they would find her, so full of hope. I know it is naive, but I didn’t even think it was possible, that she could be found dead. I just couldn’t believe it and to be honest I still haven’t totally realized it.

Nené Breidenbach we will remember you as the girl with a big smile on your face everyday, as a person that loved to laugh and as a girl with a very warm heart.

My thoughts are with her german family now and I’m sure that if heaven really exists, she is there now, surrounded by her wonderful host family, looking down on earth.

Before I end this post I also want to mention something that really warms my heart.

It is so beautiful to see how everyone here tries to help. Through donating food, water, clothes, medicaments, diapers or through taking the long drive to get all these things to the affected areas. Also from many other south american countries such as Mexico, Peru and Chile there have come many teams to help rescueing, but also from Europe there are some experts, trying to help where they can.

Ecuador has been in a financial crisis since november, so that is another problem they have here. If you have the capacity to donate, please do it.

Ecuador needs you now!

I hope I can write more soon. I’m going to Galápaos this week with YFU, so that is a thing I’m really excited for. Nené would have come too, so that is very sad. But I think she would have wanted us to enjoy the trip, so that’s what we’ll try to do.

I hope I will have many nice photos to post the next time I write a blog post.

Until then, chao and have a nice day

Annette

 

Ecuador, in the middle of the world

Hey everyone,

So I thought I would write some things about the wonderful country I’ve spent more than 7 months in.

It’s some things that surprised me or what I’m not used to. I hope through this post you will know Ecuador a little bit more, or at least the culture and everyday life here.

  • In the streets you can buy stuff everywhere. Mainly fruits and juices. But there are people selling phone accessoires, movies (pirated ones 😉 ), sunglasses and much more.
  • People like to say, Ecuador is where there’s a “tienda” (shop) in every corner. And that is soooo true. Those tiendas are everywhere  and they sell everything important you need for the household and cooking. Plus sweets and often ice cream. I like going to the tienda close to my housewith my sisters to buy an ice cream for 1$. Also the shops here are always open. I think there are just about 2 days in the year when everything’s closed.
  • Food in general is really cheap here. Especially street food
  • When I got here I thought most people live in the countryside, but actually the biggest part of the population lives in cities. People living in the countryside usually are poor farmers and workers living in tiny houses.
  • In general there are quite some differences between poor and rich. Even though there’s a lot middle – class families, I notice the differences quite often. It’s not rare seeing people in damaged clothes trying to sell Lotto-tickets or other things to people with big cars and leather handbags.
  • The country is less advanced than for example Switzerland and people don’t know about the importance to keep the environment clean. Meaning, they let the car run for 10 minutes even though they don’t even sit in it, they throw plastic and other things out of the window and in general don’t really care.
  • Also there are a lot animals living in the street. It is very sad seeing all these dogs and cats looking for food in the garbage bags.
  • There actually are seasons here even though the country is placed on the Equator circle. There’s the rain period and the dry period. Right now (January – May) it’s rain time. That means the weather is even hotter and often more humid. It also means that everything gets green. When I arrived here it was brown and dry everywhere, now the nature looks a lot more beautiful.
  • The temperature depends a lot on the altitude. In the coast it’s always hot, no matter what month. In the Sierra it’s cooler and the temperatures between day and night time vary.
  • There actually are quite big shopping malls that look much more U.S. like than the rest of the country. But stuff there is also more expensive
  • In the supermarkets there are people packing your stuff and carrying it to your car. Also at the gas station you never have to do anything by yourself, there’s people that do the work for you.
  • Family life is quite different too. For example the parents – children relationship. The kids have a lot of respect for their parents. If they want to go anywhere they always ask for permission and if the parents won’t let them, they accept it without even thinking about protesting. Another example is food. If there’s not enough food left for everyone, the parents get the last bit and it’s totally normal. That surprised me a lot, because in Europe it’s exactly the opposite.
  • In general men have a higher position. Machismo is very strong in Ecuador, as much as I’ve heard more in the coastal region than in the mountains. A man would never help in the household, always gets served first and is the king in the house. Often sons are favoured over daughters. Of course there are many families where things are different, but it’s something I’ve noticed, what I find hard to accept. Through this men feel superior and don’t have any inhibitions calling women in the street names or doing other inapproriate stuff.
  • They are very patriotic here. You see Ecuador flags often and in school we always sing the national anthem. Also Football is life, so whenever the national team plays everyone walks around with their Ecuador – shirts. Taxistas, Busdrivers, people working in the shops.
  • Also people are very religious. “Que dios te bendiga” (God be with you) is a very common sentence to say. In nearly every house there’s a photo of Maria or Jesus and you often see people do the sign of the cross after a long car ride, when they pass a church or when something special happens
  • People are Facebook addicted here. They share everything and take photos everywhere they go to put them on facebook. Sometimes that can be really annoying.
  • Also, if you have an appointment with someone don’t expect too much. Either they cancel it right before or come too late. It’s something you have to get used to because honestly nearly everyone here is like that. So often when the family is planning to go somewhere at 9 o’clock, I find myself being ready and waiting for the others, and they are still sleeping or getting ready and finally we leave at 11.
  • But still people here are so friendly and generous even though they often don’t have much either. The majority of the Ecuadorians are very open – minded. In the beginning I found it weird, that people sometimes just started talking to me, but now I get happy about it (Well most of the times at least).
  • Also body contact is a totally different thing here. Already on my first day of school, some girls held my hand like it was the most normal thing ever (I guess for them it is). Also to greet someone you usually give a kiss on the cheeks. No matter if it’s the first time you see that person. Although sometimes you just greet with a handshake. I’m still not sure when to do what so I wait what the other person does.
  • In Ecuador the people selling stuff often call you “amiga” (friend), so don’t get surprised. Other names are Mija (my daughter), mi amor (my love), mi corazon (my heart). My grandma here for example always calls me “corazon / mi amor” and that since the first week I was there. Also teachers call their students that way sometimes and “Mija” (originally mi hija) is often used between friends too.

 

This is a long list I know, but I hope I could teach you some interesting things about the ecuadorian culture.

There are some things I don’t like about it (of course), but still I think it’s very nice how people interact with each other and seeing those cultural differences is very interesting.

Besitos y hasta la proxima,

Annette

School trip

Hey everyone,

Yes, I’m still alive 🙂

Last week I was on a school trip with my class. As I wrote already we’ve got holidays for 3 months. My class will split up when school starts again, so they decided to make a tour with an organisation that organizes tours in Ecuador. In the end we were just about 25 people, including my german friend Mia, who I could bring.

We left Portoviejo by bus (the tour included a private bus for the whole week) on tuesday evening.

Day 1

Our first stop was in Baños, a town in the highlands, but close to the “Oriente” (the rainforest part of Ecuador). The climate there is really great. In the mornings and evening it’s cool, but during the day it’s warm enough to wear a t – shirt. The town is really popular among tourists because there are many activities to do and the nature there is very beautiful.

We arrived in the morning (I barely slept in the bus, so I was quite tired). We checked in at the hotel, I’d share room with Mia and my two best ecuadorian friends, Viky and Emily. After breakfast we had a Baños city tour by our guide, Carlitos. Baños is really nice and very touristic, you see souvenir shops everywhere.

A typical shop in Baños. I liked the woman's hat.

A typical shop in Baños. I liked the woman’s hat.

The "Iglesia de la Virgen de Agua Santa"

The “Iglesia de la Virgen de Agua Santa”

The church from the inside

The church from the inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baños is known for it’s thermic baths (that’s why it’s called Baños) and the story of the “Virgen de Agua Santa” (The virgin of the healthy water). That’s why there is a very nice church in the centre of Baños, dedicated to her.

Later we took a bus drive to the “cascada de manto novia” (the waterfall of the girlfriend). There we could do some fun things.

Getting into the "extrasafe" cabin.

Getting into the “extrasafe” cabin.

Crossing the beautiful valley

Crossing the beautiful valley

The beautiful landscape in Baños.

The beautiful landscape in Baños.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A selfie with the guide

A selfie with the guide

And there we go

And there we go

 

 

Mia and I did Canopy. That’s an activity where you slide from one side to another crossing the valley, hanging on a cable rope. I was kind of scared, because it is high, but it was really fun. Here’s a video to it, if anyone would like to see.

 

In the evening, after dinner we drove to a sightseeing point. It was beautiful there and there were many people. Women sold hot tea and food. The atmosphere was great.

Mia and me

Mia and me

Baños at night

Baños at night

Emily, Mia, me and Viky (from left to right).

Emily, Mia, me and Viky (from left to right).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2:

After breakfast we drove to Puyo, a city 1 hour away, that’s located in the Amazon area. There we went to a waterpark what was fun. Even though I didn’t go swimming. In the afternoon we drove to “el pailón del diablo”. That’s a very famous waterfall in Baños.

It was impressing to see and hear those incredible masses of water coming down every second. The water there is very clean, so we could actually drink it. We had a problem with the bus, so in the end we had to catch another bus to get back home again 😀 That was a funny adventure.

The stairs made into the mountain.

The stairs made into the mountain.

A little waterfall we saw on our way down.

A little waterfall we saw on our way down.

La cascada el pailón del diablo

La cascada el pailón del diablo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course we couldn't miss taking some fotos.

Of course we couldn’t miss taking some photos.

The waterfall made it feel as if we were standing under a rain cloud

The waterfall made it feel as if we were standing under a rain cloud

 

 

It was our last day in Baños, on day 3 we left for Quito. So here are some more pictures of it. I loved Baños! The atmosphere there is so calm and friendly and the nature is really amazing. If you’d ever go to Ecuador, I strongly recommend visiting Baños! You can do Mountainbiking and horseriding there too. 🙂

 

 

With my 3 best friends here in Ecuador

With my 3 best friends here in Ecuador

A group photo from everyone who was there.

A group photo from everyone who was there.

A street in Baños

A street in Baños

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3:

On the swing at the end of the world.

On the swing at the end of the world.

This was a Friday. We left early to visit the “casa del arbol”. There is a big swing there, where you can take really great photos when there’s a good view. Sadly we weren’t that lucky. It was misty and everything was white and grey. I still took a photo, but it doesn’t look that great.

The vulcan Tungurahua, that’s really close to la casa del arbol was active at that time, so we heard its angry thunder while swinging. It was a great experience. Swinging into the white mist over an abyss, accompanied by the sound of a raging vulcan.

 

We then got into the bus again and drove abou 3 hours to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. There we went to a mall to eat lunch and visit an ice – skating hall. Originally it was planned we’d go to visit the vulcano park. But through bad time management and rain we couldn’t do that. I was really sad about that. We still got a short old town tour in the dark night. Not really what I had hoped for. Also it was really cold in Quito and later in the bus. That night we drove to Atacames, a city at the coast. I barely slept.

 

Day 4:

Beach day! Atacames is a beautiful beach place. We chilled at the beach and the pool at the hotel, ate good sea food and just had a great day. It was really fun there and the beach feeling was present everywhere. I even saw some white tourists. I really liked that day. It was a lot of fun with my friends and classmates. In the night we had a little “party” at the beach. It was awesome 😀

The beautiful sea in Atacames.

The beautiful sea in Atacames.

After some water adventure

After some water adventure

"La fiesta blanca" in the night

“La fiesta blanca” in the night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5:

This was our very last day together. In the afternoon after a late breakfast we drove about 3 hours to Canoa. That is a beach town with many argentinian tourists. There we made a bonfire and said goodbye. It got a little emotional, because it would be the last day my class would be united like this. At about 10 o’clock in the evening we arrived in Portoviejo. Mia stayed at my house that night to sleep.

Canoa beach

Canoa beach

Mia, me and some friends from my class

Mia, me and some friends from my class

Enjoying the sunset with Emily

Enjoying the sunset with Emily

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All together I have nothing more to say than: This was one of the best week in my whole exchange year!

It was so beautiful to see more of this amazing country and getting to know my ecuadorian friends (plus the german one 😉 ) better.

I’m pretty sure this week will have a big impact on the 3,5 months that are left over from my exchange year. I think this was the moment I really fell in love with the beautiful Ecuador. I’m happy and that’s all I’ve asked for all these 6 months I’ve often felt like total crap.

 

I’m very thankful I got to experience all this!

 

Lots of love

Annette

Ps: Sorry this became a monster blog post again

CARNAVAL!

I’m back on it again! 🙂

I’ve been planning on writing a blog post about cultural aspects in Ecuador like food, people, living e.t.c. But as soon as I have time to do it, I forget it. I’m really sorry about that. For today I will just write an update about what I’ve done in the past few weeks.

So, our 3 months holiday started at the end of january. YFU obligates us to do voluntary work for one month in our holidays. At first it was supposed to be in a hospital, but now we work in a crèche with kids from 1 to 4 years.

I work there 5 days a week from 8.30 – 12.30 AM. I like it a lot. I play with the kiddies, feed them when it’s food time and wash them when it’s necessairy. I’m in a group of 10 kids and help leading it with a woman that works there. She’s very nice too 🙂 .

It’s a good thing to spend my free time on. It’s in the centro, so Mia, Vincent and I often do something together after work. Usually we go eating.

I still do Crossfit in the evening. It has gotten a bit easier with time, but I’m still totally done after every workout.

The rest of the time I spend reading, watching TV or playing games with my host sisters.

My host brother (he’s 11) had his graduation from school. After the holidays he’s going to start college. So we went on a little graduation party from his class.

Of course we took selfies

Of course we took selfies

Paúl and me

Paúl and me

With all of my host siblings

With all of my host siblings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday to thursday (07. – 09-02.) it was Carnaval. In Ecuador this is celebrateda little differently than in Europe. People don’t put on costumes. But just like at home people drink, put on loud music, dance, sing and celebrate until late. The difference is that here they all go to the beach (Well the people living in the Andes don’t all go of course) and people have lots of fun throwing eggs, water, flour at each other and spraying around with a bottle filled with foam. They told me back in time it was crazier but now the government has forbidden some things.

I still found it a lot of fun even though it took me a while to get the eggs out of my hair 😉

We went to the beach 3 days in a row, because no one works at Carnaval.

On monday we went to Crucita (the beach belonging to Portoviejo). There were many people there and it was a lot of fun. We danced through the whole night. There were many drunk people though.

I sadly don’t have photos of Carnaval itself because I didn’t bring my phone (I didn’t want it to get wet or stolen).

But I have some photos from the beach days. We didn’t go swimming though. My host family isn’t very used to go swimming. Also they say it’s dangerous to swim in the sea because of the rain and the strong sea current.

enjoying the beach

enjoying the beach

Gema, Shirley and me

Gema, Shirley and me

With my host sister

With my host sister

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll try to write a new post soon

Much love, Annette

 

Birthday and half – time

Once again a life sign from me from Ecuador

I haven’t written a lot lately, but here I am.

A friend of mine, Carolyn, who is a swiss exchange student living in Ibarra (city in the mountain area of Ecuador) had come to Manta with her host family. Since Manta is close to Portoviejo, I went there to visit her and her family. So on the 4th of january I took the bus in the morning and drove to Manta. There I spent a great beach day with Carolyn and her host family. It was very nice seeing her again and we visited a very beautiful beach. Until now I had never seen the “postcard – motive – beaches” of Ecuador.

Coastal view outside of Manta

Coastal view outside of Manta

We stayed until sunset

We stayed until sunset

"Los frailes", a tourist attraction and beautiful beach

“Los frailes”, a tourist attraction and beautiful beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the 5th of january I celebrated my 17th birthday. To be honest I’ve never been less excited for a birthday. I wished I could just skip it and wake up on the 6th of january. My wish didn’t become reality but it wasn’t that bad anyways. I got a little homesick but it was still nice. Some friends came to my house. Mia and Vincent from Germany, Carolyn from Switzerland, two ecuadorian friends and of course my host sisters. My host family had bought cake, so we ate that, talked and later on we went out to eat an ice cream.

My birthday cake

My birthday cake

I don't really like this picture, but it's the only one I have

I don’t really like this picture, but it’s the only one I have

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From then my life went on like every day. School in the morning, doing nothing in the afternoons. Even though there are still many TV-series I haven’t watched, that became boring 😉 . So Mia and I decided to start going to Crossfit 2 – 3 times a week. Crossfit is similair to going to the gym. You do exercises with weights but also some cardio training. Even though it’s very hard (especially because I haven’t done sports in 5 month) I really like it. It’s in a group with other people and we all sweat together. Also it feels great to finally move regulary again. I had missed that. I feel the benefits of the exercises through my sore muscles 😉 . I go there by bus, because it would get too expensive to always take the taxi. The buses are quite uncomfortable, you nearly have space for your legs and it’s always very hot. A week ago I was the only one in the bus and I talked to the bus driver for the whole ride. That was a nice experience. Through that I notice how much “ecuadorian” I’ve already got. Not just that my Spanish is good enough to talk to a stranger. Also I don’t get nervous before every bus ride anymore and I also don’t have to prepare myself mentally to shout “PARADA!” (Stop) through the whole bus anymore. I took some photos from the bus, but they aren’t very good because it’s really bumpy all the time. It was that time I was alone in the bus, I would never do that otherwise. Take this advice seriously: NEVER EVER take out your phone in the bus unless you want to take the chance to get robbed.

"Leg space"

“Leg space”

a blurry picture from inside the bus

a blurry picture from inside the bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had my last day of school yesterday. Now I have holidays for 3 month!! I haven’t planned a lot yet. My military school is sadly going to change to a normal public school after the holidays. The government decided to shut down half of the military schools in Ecuador. We all find that very sad. Because of that there came a photographer to our school and took pictures of every class. I’m happy he did.

With "my group"

With “my group”

segundo Bachillerato "C"

segundo Bachillerato “C”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the 21st of january it was exactly half – time of my exchange year here in Ecuador. Today it’s 153 days to go until the exchange ends. Even though the first part hasn’t been easy, I’m thankful for everything I’ve learned and experienced. I feel like I have changed in those months and I think it’s a good change (except the physical change; those “extra exchange – student – kilos” wouldn’t be necessairy 😉 ). I’m looking forward to what’s to come. I’ve built a base now. I have some friends, I know the city, the language and more about the culture. I hope a lot that the second part of my exchange will be filled with more hapiness and good experiences than the first one. But I’m very sure about that.

My post got very long this time. Sorry about that.

In the holidays I have a lot of time, so I am trying to write posts more regulary.

Besitos, Annette

 

New Year’s celebration in Ecuador

I was really excited for New Year’s eve here because I had heard a lot about it.

It’s a tradition here to burn “año viejos” or also just called “muñecos”. This is supposed to bring luck. Often people burn “themselves”. Meaning that they burn their old year, so they can start a totally new one with lots of luck. There was a big market of those muñecos in the city. They are made from paper and glue and can be whatever you want. This year they sold many fantasy figures and disney princesses for the kids. The market also offered paper heads. Those heads are made to look similar to someone. I never understood why their skin colour always is red 😉 The heads are meant to be bought (for about 3$) so the people can make the bodies themselves. That I did with my host sister. We made a “body” out of wood, put on our old clothes, filled it with newspapers and put on the heads we had bought.

They also make an annual competition in Portoviejo, where they choose the best “scenes” portraied with muñecos. So there were about 10 of these scenes spread in the city. On the 30th in the evening we went to look at them by car and we had to wait a lot in the traffic. But it was “vale la pena” (worth the pain). I really liked some of the presentations. The one that won was a group that had made a huge scene with many different muñecos about recycling. It was very good and I also liked the message. The winners received 3000$. I think that’s a really beautiful tradition Portoviejo has.

There were muñecos even taller than this one

There were muñecos even taller than this one

The huge market with over 50 stands

The huge market with over 50 stands

My host sister and me with "ourselves"

My host sister and me with “ourselves”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On New Year’s eve we went to the house of the aunt that lives in the city. We got there at about 9 o’clock. Everyone put on nice clothes and some make-up for the girls. At about 11.30 we went outside in the street and started to burn the muñecos. It was really loud outside. Ecuadorians like to say goodbye to the old year with a lot of noise 😉 . There were also people that let off fireworks. At 12 o’clock we ate 12 grapes (a spanish tradition) and everyone kissed everyone on the cheeks and wished “feliz año”. After that we ate (of course meat with rice, how could it be different) and then we played games. At about 4 am. They put on music and started dancing. I was very tired at that time but I still danced too. We first came home very late, so we all slept until mid day.

The muñecos before being burned to ashes

The muñecos before being burned to ashes

There were many of these fires on the street

There were many of these fires on the street

Beach day on the 1st of january

Beach day on the 1st of january

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At about 4 o’clock in the afternoon we drove to the beach. It is very common here in the coast to spend the 1st of january at the beach, so there were quite some people on the street. We then bathed until it got dark. It was nice to start my year of 2016 with a bath in the pacific 🙂

I personally didn’t make any new year’s resolutions. I am very excited about what 2016 will bring  me and I hope that my exchange year will become great after all.

I wish everyone a happy new year and all the best for 2016!

Christmas in Ecuador

Hello everyone!

I know I haven’t written in quite some time but now I’m back saying MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone on the other part of the world. I hope everyone had a great celebration with their loved ones.

Christmas party for the host families:

Here in Ecuador they don’t really celebrate the “before christmas time” like we do. The only thing they do is decorate the house. So on sunday the 13th of december we exchange students from Portoviejo made a christmas party for our host families. We all made some specific food from our country (the netherlands, switzerland and germany) and planned some games.

Mia and Vincent making pizza rolls

Mia and Vincent making pizza rolls

So, on saturday we went to Santiagos house to prepare most of it (after doing the shoppings). I made christmas cookies and a “Aargauer Rüeblitorte”, a cake from switzerland. The preparation time was fun. We put on music and enjoyed baking and cooking. The next day we went to Santiagos house early. There we finished everything and I made rice pudding (something you eat in Norway in the christmas time). When the families (we were about 35 people) came, we ate and played some nice games all together. It was very nice and funny. i think everyone liked it.

Quinzañera

Here in Ecuador the fifteenth birthday of a girl is very important. They say that that is the age when a girl starts performing into a woman. That’s why many families make a big party when a girl gets 15.

With my friends

With my friends

A friend from school asked me if I wanted to go to such a quinzañera with her, so I said yes. I could borrow a dress from my host sister. Sadly the dress I took with me from Switzerland doesn’t fit me that good anymore (exchange student problems 😉 ). The party was very elegant. Everyone wore nice dresses and smokings. The girl that celebrated her birthday wore a beautiful, big, pink dress. Some people held speaches and the girl danced with her father, uncles and grandfather. It was very traditional and I’m happy I could see how this gets celebrated here. After the traditional part there came what everyone had been wating for, dancing 🙂 Ecuadorians love to dance. from 5 to 70 years everyone got on the dancefloor. This is something I love about the people here. They enjoy life with music. I’ve never been a good dancer but it still was fun.

Christmas celebration

I was very excited to see christmas celebration here and thought it would be a big thing. But that I got disappointed with. We stayed in the house and there came some cousins. We ate food (rice with meat) and I had made some desserts. After that we watched a movie and that was it. I guess it’s understandable that I was quite homesick that evening and the day after. On the 25th we didn’t do anything at all.
The 26th we went to a river with the whole family. There we bathed. For everyone considering to come to Ecuador, be prepared that people here bath in clothes. I found it very weird in the beginning, that they just went into the sea or river with their clothes on. Especially women. Kids and men sometimes wear bathing clothes just like we do in Europe. One of the reasons is the strong sun, but more important is that women don’t want to show themselves in Bikinis. Maybe because many people here are over weight and they don’t feel well in their bodies or just because it isn’t seen as respectable that women show too much skin. At least that is something I had to get used too. But the bathing was fun.

where we bathed

where we bathed

A nice house I saw next to the river

A nice house I saw next to the river

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So my christmas celebration wasn’t very special.

I’m looking forward to new year’s eve. I was told that it’s a tradition here to burn figure that are called “año viejo” (the old year). I will write another post about the new year’s traditions here.

That’s it for now,

Feliz navidad y prospero año

Annette

Christmas time is here!

Hi everyone out there,

I’m very happy to tell that I feel much better already. I’ve got used to the new situation and feel alright. Of course there’s homesickness coming up sometimes but all together I’m happy.

This week there finally happened things and I came out of the house quite a lot.

In the afternoon I often do something with my host sister, if she’s not too busy with home work. That is really nice.

On thursday I even rode the bus on my own the first time. Believe me, it’s not as casual as it sounds. It actually was quite an adventure for me 🙂 I’m sure I will do this often from now on, because if I want to come to the centro with the taxi, it costs me 2.50$. Then I prefer to pay 30 cents for the bus and sit more uncomfortable.

I’ve been in the centro so often this week. Nearly every day. It is very lively there, you can buy a lot of stuff and most of all, you need to watch over your own things very good. Portoviejo is a rather dangerous city, so never ever let your bag out of your eyes!

On friday I got bit by a dog at school. It was following us around all day and we played with it and petted it until he all of a sudden got really agressive and attacked me. It wasn’t too bad, and I’m vaccumated against rabies and tetanus, but the lady from the nursing station at school told me I had to get an injection. So then we went to buy that.
I was very surprised to see how they do that here. You go to a pharmacy, there you buy the injection, it cost 5.50$ (yes you can buy anything without a doctor receipt here), then you go to a “red cross” station. There a woman put the injection in my butt for 2$. The day after it still hurt when walking 😉 . At least my hand is fine now, my butt too and I’m gonna be more careful with dogs I don’t know.

On saturday I went to an old people’s home with my host sister. There we stayed for 2 hours and talked with the old people and made some handmade art. It was a bit boring for me, because I didn’t understand anything they said. Sadly my spanish isn’t good enough yet to understand quiet mulmling old people. But still it was nice to see these people that have gone through a lot, smile towards us.

And today I made “Mailänderli” (swiss christmas cookies) with my host sister. That was really nice, even though a bit complicated because kitchens here are equipped very differently. Everyone in the family liked the cookies, so that is great.

a part of the final result

a part of the final result

My host sister making cookies

My host sister making cookies

Cookies in progress

Cookies in progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me it’s a bit difficult, now that christmas time is here. Christmas is a family celebration and I miss our christmas preparation at home. Here everything is full with blink lights, glitter and plastic. I think it’s too much, but the people here appearently like to decorate their houses with 1000 blink lights. Our house isn’t too bad, but when we drive through the city I often think like “Who would even put stuff like that on their house?”. But the taste is just different here and I accept that.

Our living room with the plastic tree

Our living room with the plastic tree

The fact that it’s 30 degrees every day with a lot of sun, doesn’t make it easier to imagine that christmas is right around the corner.

As you might hear, there’s finally happening a bit more in my life here and I feel good.

 

 

 

 

 

Un fuerte abrazo,

Annette

Familia número 2

Hi everyone

So I finally got to change my host family. I’ve been here since Wednesday. The family consists of the two parents, the grand-mother and three kids. A boy that’s 12 and 2 girls that are 14 and 16. It all happened very fast, so I think wether the family nor I were really ready for it yet. The family comes from the middle class, just like most people in Ecuador and they own a little company, that sells wood. The “fabric” is right behind the house, so during the daytime you can always hear the electrical saws.

My new home from the front

My new home from the front

The "fabrical" part

The “fabrical” part

Behind the house

Behind the house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We live outside of the city centre, but still in Portoviejo. I have my own room, what I find really great. It sadly doesn’t have windows, so it gets hot quite fast when I don’t put on air condition. I’ve already decorated it with photos and I spend most of the day there. It’s quite sad, that my host family members spend all day in their rooms, sleeping, doing homework, watching TV or just being on the phone. I’ve tried going into my host sister’s room sometimes and talk a bit, but I notice that she doesn’t really feel like talking, so the conversation usually ends very fast. So then I just go into my room again, converse with my people at home, watch TV-series or read. Those things also distract me from the upcoming homesickness. Always when I feel like I just want to curl up in bed and cry, I read. Because like that I can concentrate on another story than my own.

A little "garden" in front of the house

A little “garden” in front of the house

The view from my room

The view from my room

My room with a big bed

My room with a big bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There also live some dogs on the area. But there’s no one looking after them. My host sister even hits them when they get too close to her. That really hurts me to see, so sometimes I go outside and sit dowm to pet them or play with them for a while. Becuase they are really cute and friendly dogs that deserve attention.

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So now to how I feel here:

I really had hoped very much to come to a typical, host friendly and open ecuadorian family. Just like the ones I got to know in Machala. Well, sadly that wish didn’t come true. I really am thankful for the family to take me and I’m sure they are very nice people, but I don’t feel very welcome here. My host siblings find it really cool to have a swiss sister. They want to take photos with me all the time and show me to everyone and walk through the streets with me so everyone can see they know me. But my host parents don’t talk to me at all. My host father went to the US for a week on saturday and I haven’t talked to him at all, and my host mom I nearly see. I don’t think they really understand what a host family is meant to be, because no one told them. YFU hasn’t had a lot of contact with them. But I don’t think they are like that only towards me. For them it’s just normal to sit in their room all day and not talk to each other a lot. This is quite difficult for me, because like that I miss my caring family at home even more. What I miss the most is the feeling of being welcome and appreciated and that someone cares about that I’m there. But I’m trying my best. I start talking to my host mother or grandma even though they usually don’t continue the conversation. I try to integrate myself in the conversations of my host sisters and I try to do everything right. I hope I will feel more welcome here soon. Because at the moment I’m not even sure if the change brought me anything unless extra stress through the new surroundings. But I will try my best ,even though I often feel without energy, and wait…

My host sister Gema

My host sister Gema and me

me with my host siblings

me with my host siblings

We went to the movies

We went to the movies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On sunday we went to the beach, that was nice but I didn’t have time to put on sunscreen because all went very fast, so now I’ve got a bad sunburn.

That’s it for now. I hope I can tell more happy things in my next blog. Maybe I just have to get used to everything.

Un beso de Ecuador and I miss you all very much.

Oriente

Hi everyone,

So I’m writing this after a week with many happenings. As you might have know, I went to Oriente (that’s how we call the rain forest part of Ecuador here). I saw a lot so I will tell about it in chronical order.

Wednesday, 18th:

In the morning we took the bus to Quito. All the Portoviejo people went, so I wasn’t alone. Because of some street problems, the ride took about 10 hours. It was boring but I’m used to bus rides here, so it was okay. The streets are not very comfortable and the drivers usually drive very dangerously, so the ride itself was an adventure too. When we finally arrived in Quito we

view out of the bus window

View out of the bus window

were all shocked by the cold. Two of us even only wore shorts. I luckily had thought about the climate change and had a hoodie with me, but it still was very cold. Quito is in the sierra (mountain area), so it’s always cold there. We then took the taxi to the hotel and there we met everyone again. It was so great. I was really happy to see my friends again and it was a good evening. We went to a bar and talked a lot. The Hotel was nice. Not very luxurious but clean. I went to sleep quite late that day, just like the following days 🙂

Thursday, 19th:

 

After eating a small breakfast at 7.30, we packed our stuff and got on the bus. This bus was only for YFU students (we were about 30). The 5 hour trip was very interesting. It was nice to see the nature change through the time that passed and I talked a lot with the people. To the hotel we came by boats that picked us up. It was really cool to drive to the “casa del suizo” (the house of the swiss guy) that way. The following days we always got from one place to another by boats. When we arrived we first got lunch there. We were really enthusiastic about the food. There was a buffet with salads, warm food and desserts. Especially the dessert buffet I was a big fan of (as people that know me might understand 😉 ). We then went to swim in the pool and after the delicious dinner we just chilled and chatted. It was very nice even though the mosquitos were disturbing. I used so much anti mosquito spray in the Oriente.

The first boat ride

The first boat ride

"la casa del suizo" (you can see the ecuadorian and the swiss flag next to each other)

“la casa del suizo”

The beautiful hotel with a great pool

The beautiful hotel with a great pool

View from the pool

View from the pool

me with some group of friends

me with some group of friends

the view from the room

the view from the room

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Friday, 20th:

Here our real jungle adventures started. After the amazing breakfast we all got rubber boots to put on and then we drove to another place with the boats. There a guide showed us through the primary and secondary rain forest. He really knew a lot about the plants and animals there. We also swang on a liana, what was funny. In the rain forest it’s really hot and humid, so we were all sweating waterfalls. After that we drove to a Zoo where they hold rescued animals, such as monkeys, parrots, alligators and more. There are many european volunteers that work there. After those sweaty activities, we got to float down the river on tires. It was really refreshing and lots of fun.

In the rain forest

In the rain forest

View worth the walk

View worth the walk

cute tucan

cute tucan

A cute animal I couldn't identify

A cute animal I couldn’t identify

there were so many apes in the zoo

there were so many apes in the zoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After lunch at the hotel we got on the boats again and drove to an island. There we went to the house of a family of indigenos. They live there on their own with some other families and have their own farm. There they showed us how to make chicha. Chicha is a very traditional and holy drink, that’s made out of yuca and some other spice. They then let it stand until it reaches some alcoholic status. I don’t think anyone of us liked it, but it was great to taste it and to the people there it’s really important. It was very interesting to see how the people live there so far away from civilisation. They learn spanish at school, but the traditional language is “Quechua”. Then we drove to another place where a indigena showed us how she makes ceramic bowls out of natural materials. I find it fascinating to see how these people know so much about the nature we live in. After that we all went to the pool and ate good food. In the evening we went to the village behind the hotel, where they also have a dicso. I didn’t dance, but I talked a lot to the others, so it was nice.

A little Quechua girl

A little Quechua girl

Chicha (not really my taste)

Chicha (not really my taste)

Girls washing their clothes

Girls washing their clothes

Showing us how to make ceramics

Showing us how to make ceramics

beautiful landscape

beautiful landscape

The ceramcis shop

The ceramcis shop

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Saturday, 21st:

We again walked through the rainforest for about 2 hours. It was soooooo hot, but really beautiful. We even saw a poisonous snake that people usually don’t get to see, how the guide told us. After that we drove to a little beach where there were some floats on the water. From there we floated down the river and also got to bath in the Napo. It was really cool.

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The bridge was really scary to walk over

The bridge was  scary

Huge trees

Huge trees

Like a Tarzan

Like a Tarzan

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breathtaking nature

breathtaking nature

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Then we had lunch at the hotel and walked to the butterfly house. It was very beautiful there. There were many butterflies that even came and sat on our hands and heads. The butterfly house belongs to the hotel and I liked it a lot. Later we walked to the place of an artist that makes animals out of wood. His work is all handmade and I think it is very beautiful. Then we came back, swam in the pool and ate our last dinner at the hotel. The evening we spent playing cards, talking and walking through the little village.

 

beautiful colours

beautiful colours

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I became friends with it 😉

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There were also nice flowers

"casa de las mariposas"

“casa de las mariposas”

The cocoons

The cocoons

making wooden art

making wooden art

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Sunday, 22nd:

We all were very sad having to leave the beautiful Oriente and we enjoyed our last breakfast at the hotel. I may or may have not eaten 3 pancakes 😉

Then after packing our stuff, we went to the boats that drove us to where the bus was waiting. From there we drove for about 6 hours to Quito. In Quito we went on a market, where they sold clothes, jewellery, chocolate, coffee, handbags and much more. It was a market of the indios and I bought quite a lot. I love the poncho that I bought for myself. On these markets it is important to try to lower the price, because they want to sell their stuff more expensive. So through talking I got my poncho for 16$ instead of 22$. Then I also noticed very well, how my Spanish has improved. In the evening we chilled at the hotel (it was the same one like the first day in Quito), played cards and talked. It was a bit sad because it was the last day, but I enjoyed it.

one of our guides

one of our guides

Last breakfast

Last breakfast

A group photo of us all

A group photo of us all

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Monday 23rd:

After breakfast I had to say goodbye to Noelle, who had to travel quite early. It was very sad to say goodbye and I would have given anything to not having to go back to Portoviejo and my stressing family situation there. After breakfast I had some time to talk to the others but soon we had to drive to the terminal. The goodbye was hard. I don’t know when I will see my friends again, but I hope I can visit them in the big holidays. Then we drove the bus and arrived at 6 pm. in Portoviejo. Back again the homesickness came back immediately. I hope very much that in my next blog I will be able to tell you that I finally got to change my host family.

 

A big hug from Ecuador

Ps: I’m so sorry for how it looks with the photos. I’ve been trying everything but somehow the blog programme of YFU doesn’t allow it to work free with the photos so they always get aligned in a very weird way. 🙁