YFU Switzerland

Cultural differences – traffic

Hola a todos,

Since my last week there has really not happened anything, I still haven’t heard anything of my new host family and my days are as boring as always. At least I finally got to do some sports this week and went to Pilates with my host mum on monday and tuesday. But that’s all news I have. And because I have a weekend without any plans once more, sitting alone at home I thought I would try to bring some cultural aspect of Ecuador a bit closer to you. The differences are so immense, that there will be more than one post and for this time I will focus on the traffic. Yes traffic. May sound special but when I came here I was so overwhelmed by just travelling by car that I thought it would earn a post in my blog. Also I think that the situation on the roads of a country says quite a lot about the country itself.

So I thought I would just set up a list with the things that seem different to me:

  • There are very many Taxis in the city. Often 40% of the traffic are the taxis that you easily can recognize by the yellow colour and the honking. Taxis are very cheap and you can find one always, so many people use them to get from one place to another (including me)
  • But still Taxis are expensive for some people, so busses are very popular too and cost only 30 cents per trip. The busses are huge and often hot and full of people. I’ve only driven one once but I get an impression on how dangerous bus drivers drive every day.
  • Most of the cars are really big. People often own the typical American pick-ups. But I’ve also already seen very small cars that were nearly falling apart
  • Everyone is honking, all the time. It is crazy. It’s always loud on the streets, but the thing is without honking I think I wouldn’t be alive anymore. Drivers often don’t even look at the street, so if you don’t want to crash you actually need to honk. Another thing is, that everytime I walk through the streets, people honk at me. All the time. It can be annoying to be the blonde stranger at times.
  • Seatbelt? What is that? Here no one wears a seatbelt. Only if the driver sees a police control somewhere he puts it on, but in all my time here, I’ve never worn one.
  • Phone while driving? No problem. I’ve feared about my life many times, while the driver was whatsapping or phoning.
  • Neither does anyone find it weird to sit in a small car with like 7 other people or that children often sit in the front with their mums.
  • On the back of pick-ups you can see all possible things. Huge families including pets, pigs, chicken, like 1000 bananas and much more
  • Mopeds are very popular too. You often see whole families on one moped. The dad in the front, two kids in the middle and the mum sitting on the back. It is a very dangerous way to move but the people don’t have other choices.
  • Here I’ve seen like 2 people driving a bike for fun or to do sports. It’s used as a means of transport and it’s not unlikely to see 3 people sitting on one bike. It is dangerous to drive a bike on the roads, because car drivers are not very respectful. So there are not too many.
  • Yes, traffic lights exist and they get respected (more or less 😉 ) but crossings are very chaotic places.
  • Gas is very cheap here. I don’t think it’s even possible to pay more than 20$ on refilling your tank, even when it’s all empty.
  • There are many bumps on the road that make the cars slow down for more safety but actually they just cause the cars to speed up really fast until the next bump comes.
  • At really every place a car has to stop for just 2 seconds or has to slow down, there are people selling stuff. Usually it’s food or drinks but they also sell technical accessories, children toys and clothes such as scarves. Literally everything. At traffic lights you can often see young men doing some acrobatic tricks and trying to collect some money from the drivers afterwards. I feel very sorry for all these people that have to work so hard and so dangerously to earn their living.
  • Taking over other cars/busses gets a real adventure here.
  • Most of the roads have 2 or three tracks, also inside the city. In the city centre all the roads are one-sided, what makes the roads a bit safer.
  • They let the motor run all the time. Even if the driver gets out of the car to buy something in a shop. That I find really bad. Sometimes I think about how at home my mom turns off the motor when the light is red for too long. Here people would find that totally ridiculous.
  • As soon as you get out of town you can see crosses with names written on them along the road a lot. That just reminds me of how dangerous the road is here and that many people have died, travelling by car.

But don’t be worried about me now. The people here have grown up with it, so they know how to handle it. But I have to admit that I’ve been afraid sitting in the car or the taxi quite some times. But there never has happened anything and I’m sure that will stay like that 🙂

The list got quite long. Whoops, sorry for that

On wednesday I’m gonna have my first YFU – trip. We are going to the Amazon. I am so excited for the trip. I’ve only heard good things about the nature there and I’m looking forward to see everyone again, especially my swiss girls. It will be an appreciated distraction from all the stupid things happening here.

So the next time I write you will for sure get to see many photos and hear about my great trip and who knows, maybe I will finally get to tell you something new about the situation with the host family…

Big hug, Annette

Ps: Yes, also I have heard about the terrible attacks in Paris and it feels strange being so far away now. I can’t find words to describe my feelings towards this and this blog isn’t about political happenings, so I’ll leave it here. But I just wanted you to know, that also here in Ecuador people have heard about it and are worried.

A little update about my life here

Hi everyone out there

So, I haven’t written in a while. That’s mostly because there didn’t happen a lot here.

Family

After that I came home from Machala (I’m still missing it heaps 🙁 ) my regular life here started again. But somehow everything is different. Through that I’ve decided to change host family I feel like we are all just kind of waiting for the moment that I’m finally leaving. That week in Machala I filled up my happiness batteries again. I saw that it actually is possible to have an amazing time here. I got to know a wonderful family in Machala and just felt so much better there. So I asked YFU if it would be possible that I can go to live in Machala with that family I like so much. And first they gave me a lot of hope that it would be possible. I was so extremely happy and excited and I was sure that my life in Ecuador would become awesome. Then the shock, YFU Quito says I can’t go. I felt so down. I talked a lot to my parents at home and they helped me going through it. My dream had been crushed. We tried everything. My area rep, YFU Switzerland, I, my parents and the area rep in Machala wrote to YFU Quito to ask them to change their opinion, but they didn’t do. I think that was the first time in my life that I had felt so helplessly angry and sad. But with help of my parents I managed to accept the decision, even though it’s hard. So now I’m going to stay in Portoviejo, but with another family. My area rep already found a family but I can’t change before Monday next week. I really hope that I will finally feel happy and at home there. I’m going to have a 15 year old host brother, but more I don’t know about them. I will write more about that next week

School and friends            

At school I feel very well. The lessons are boring because I don’t understand a lot, but I usually have someone to talk to or I listen to the conversations of my class mates.

I notice that it makes a big difference that I have got used to the noise in the class room and that the atmosphere is totally different from school in Switzerland. I still am the “most special” person in the class, but I start developing normal friendships and don’t have 10 different people coming up to me all the time. A funny example that I’m still being seen as the stranger is when we had a math test. In math lessons I can work too, because there the language doesn’t make a big problem. So through that the test wasn’t a big deal to me (I also don’t have to be afraid for bad grades at the moment). But when I gave my paper to the teacher as the first student, all of a sudden everyone started clapping and shouting “Wooow, Annette!!” Everyone was so surprised that I had written that test. It was really funny.

I can’t say that I have really close friends here. For that I don’t know them good enough, but there are some people I usually am with and with who I talk a lot. They are all so nice to me. I’m very thankful that the people here never seem to get impatient with me because they have to repeat everything like 3 times.

Spanish

So now, the big question: How is my Spanish?….

Well it is much better than in the beginning, that’s for sure. Also my host parents and school friends tell me that I learn the new language fast. It feels good being able to have a conversation in Spanish, or well more or less a “conversation” 😉 . I often have to ask for explanations of words and when I talk it still is difficult to express everything I want to say. Especially the verbs are killing me. There are like 3094858 different verb forms and even though I only use 3 (present simple, past simple and one of the future forms) it is difficult. But still I’m positive that in about 2 or 3 month, I will be nearly fluent in Spanish. For example when I sit in the taxi, the taxistas often start talking to me. And that’s when I notice that I have improved a lot. But of course it can be quite uncomfortable when I want to buy something and the salesman says something and I have to ask “what?” like three times. The people always look at me then.

Halloween

Here halloween is celebrated similair to at home. But the children don’t walk alone on their own and ask for candy. When I told my school friends about that they went like “Whaat?! But don’t they get robbed?”. But there are quite many fiestas and the people dress up just like we do. But of course the atmosphere is totally different without the orange trees and the fall weather.

So all together I’m ok. I’m looking forward to the change of the family but I’m still very disappointed and sad, that my dream of living in Machala won’t become real.

I often think “It would be so easy to just go home and leave my chaos life here behind”. But life isn’t easy. Now I’m here, now I also have to try everything to make the best out of it. I miss my family a lot but I know they are always standing behind me and it’s “only” 8 month left until I see them again.

Much love

Annette

PS: If there is anything specific you would like me to write about, feel free to contact me! Annette.db@hotmail.com or you can leave a comment here

Machala – the banana capital

Hello everyone 🙂

So after my very honest and quite negative blog from last time I have lots of great things to tell. There happened so much last week, be prepared for a long blog 😉

First impressions

So because we had vacations for one week and I knew that I would feel really bad just sitting in the house on my own all day, I decided to go on holidays. A swiss friend (Noelle) that lives in Machala had holidays too, so after some organisation I managed to get the permission of YFU to go and visit her. The Trip from Portoviejo to Machala takes about 8 hours. It’s needed to change bus in Guayquil (the biggest city in Ecuador), but luckily I could drive with my host grandad to Guayaquil and he helped me to take the bus from there. I was a little afraid because I had heard so many stories of people being robbed on the bus, but everything went good. In Machala Noelle and her host mom picked me up and we went home. I slept in a room with Noelle for that week. Her host family lives in a private neighborhood, so that’s really nice because it’s quiet. On that first Friday I already got to know many of Noelles friends because we went to a home party. At first it was a bit weird because I didn’t know anyone but the people started to talk to me quite soon. It’s funny because they are all able to speak english. That was really surprising to me but it was great to be able to have a conversation without thinking about every word twice.
While I was there I realized the reason why I always am so homesick. It’s actually quite easy: I don’t feel at home. I think I just need a real family with kids in my age around me. Becuase that’s exactly what Noelles family is like. The mother has a lot of time and she has siblings from 9 and 12. They are young but you can talk to them and have fun. And the whole family took me up like a new family member. And while I was there I really could fill up my hapinesslevel. So I decided that a change of family is the only way I can manage to make this year great. Even though I like my host family a lot I don’t feel like we are a family and that’s the problem.

Machala

Banana trees everywhere

Banana trees everywhere

The city definitely earned its name “banana capital”. You see banana trees everywhere and at the port you see many huge ships that export the banans to every part of the world. Who knows, maybe the next banana you eat comes from Machala 😉 The port is very nice and there are some souvenir shops there. So Susy and Andrés (Noelles host parents) bought me a Sombrero there. I already used it a lot. Even though you feel like the typical stupid tourist with it, it really helps to protect your head and face from the strong sun. Definitely a recommondation to everyone travelling to Ecuador! The city is nice and there are quite many parks and it’s much less noisy than Portoviejo. I like the town a lot.

Nature park

P1290186B

really high trees (approx. 40 metres)

P1290214

It needs about 7 grown people to hug the trees

We went to a nature park with huge and special trees that’s located about 1 hour away from Machala. There we got a guided tour. We were there with all the family, so quite a lot people and they wanted to take photos of Noelle and me everywhere. That got a bit annoying with the time but they mean it in a nice way. They want us to have photos to remember. The park was very nice and it was quite impressive how huge the trees were. I really liked that trip because like that I saw more of ecuadorian nature and that’s something I really want.P1290168B

La familia

La familia

Then we spent some very nice days in the house. Noelle and I talked a lot (swiss german *yeah*), swam in the pool, spent time with her siblings, went to the cinema with friends, went a night out with some other girls from the neighbour hood (it’s really great when your friends have a car 🙂 ) and just enjoyed our time together. It was amazing and I got to know so many new people. I think I have much more friends in Machala now than in Portoviejo.

Loja and Vilcabamba

On Friday we drove to Loja, a town approx 4 hours from Machala away. We didn’t stay there long and only looked at the park. The park was really nice with many horses just walking around free. I liked Loja a lot. There we also did some shopping. It felt like we were buying food to feed half an army. People here eat so much. Then we travelled further to Vilcabamba, where the neighbours’ uncle has a huge house. We lived there with about 20 people. It was such a great trip and Vilcabamba is an incredible town. There are a lot of foreign people there so it was quite relaxing to not be that one “special person” everyone stares at.

In Vilcabamba we chilled at the pool (of course Noelle and me got a sunburn, the cons of having light skin), walked around in the town, ate good food and just talked and enjoyed the time with all the family. There even was a celebration where natives danced traditional dances. That was very nice to see. I love the traditional ecuadorian clothings.

I intended to return to Portoviejo on sunday but because of some problems I just got to travel back tuesday. I was very sadhaving to go back and leaving all these beautiful people, but I’m sure I’m going to see them again.  That week was definitely the very best since I’ve been here in Ecuador and I’m very very thankful that I could travel there and live with Noelle’s family.

That time I had to change bus all by myself in Guayaquil. I was a bit scared because the bus terminal there is really huuuuge. But I managed to do it, so now I’m a little proud of myself to be honest 🙂P1290231

There's a lot of tourism in Vilcabamba

There’s a lot of tourism in Vilcabamba

The church in Vilcabamba

The church in Vilcabamba

The costumes from "la costa"

The costumes from “la costa”

some landscape

some landscape

The house we lived in

The house we lived in

beautiful nature

beautiful nature

in the animal park

in the animal park

With Nathalia, a friend of mine

With Nathalia, a friend of mine What a view!

Vilcabamba at night

Vilcabamba at night

Two kids dancing

Two kids dancing

Handmade things sold by natives

Handmade things sold by natives

Horseriding in Loja

Horseriding in Loja

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animal park. I felt really sorry for the animals there

Animal park. I felt really sorry for the animals there

I hope everything is fine back in Europe

un abrazo Annette

Exchange is a rollercoaster of feelings

Hello everyone out there 🙂

In this post I would like to focus on what is going on in me. There is not much to tell about my week anyway. This week I only went to school Monday and Tuesday, but because the students have exams I didn’t need to go wednesday to friday. On wednesday I went to the house of Mia (a german exchange student) to eat there. She doesn’t live in Portoviejo, so she needs to take the bus every day. To me that was quite exciting because I had never taken a bus before in Ecuador. It was a nice afternoon and I was able to forget my homesickness for a while. It was also very interesting to see how other exchange students live. Mia has the exactly opposite of me. There is always someone around, because the place she lives in is a community of approx. 7 houses, where all the family lives. So she always has a lot of cousins, aunts, uncles around her.

On Thursday we had the meeting with our area rep to talk about what we had experienced the first month here in Ecuador. Before that I went to eat Pizza with Mia and Vincent (another exchange student from Germany, who lives in the same place as Mia) and as dessert we ate Frozen Yogurth (delicious 🙂 ). The meeting went fine, but more about that later.

So I still feel very homesick. I miss home, my family and friends a lot. I often feel lonely and I think without Whatsapp and Skype I wouldn’t even have stayed here more than 2 weeks. The people at home are the only ones I can talk to. Of course there are people here that for sure would want to help me, but I don’t know them very good. I have only been at my new college for 1,5 weeks, so I don’t have close friends there. And my hostfamily doesn’t have much time for me. I mean I totally understand them. They have a three year old daughter that needs a lot of attention, they work a lot and they study. Then there’s not very much time over for an exchange student that has problems to find its place in a foreign culture. Don’t get me wrong, they are very very nice and understandable and I like them a lot, but somehow I just don’t feel at home here. I also don’t want to steal their precious free time through moaning about my problems. It is quite depressing to read blogs of other exchange students here or texting them, because they are all having a great time. I often read “The first days/weeks were hard, but now I’m feeling great and I love this country”. And then there’s me that still feels the same like in the beginning. Of course there are good moments but in the end of the day my thoughts are always the same: “I want to be at home now”. I don’t know what I can do. Of course I try to find something positive in everything and get out, but it’s difficult here because first of all I don’t have a lot of energy and there actually is nothing to do. I really don’t understand why I am having such a rough time. I mean everyone else can do it too, why not me? But these thoughts don’t bring me anywhere. I’m sorry for writing such an unhappy post, but I want to tell the whole truth about my stay here. And the truth is, exchange isn’t full of roses, love, fun and activities. At least not an exchange in Ecuador. I’m sure it’s different in countires like the US or England. In general I like Ecuador a lot. It has an interesting culture and I enjoy learning something new every day. My problem is, that I am here on my own. But that is the purpose of an exchange, and I knew that from before, so I don’t understand myself. I think I just had totally different expectations that didn’t come true.

My Spanish is improving, but I still have a lot of difficulties with understanding the people here (they talk really fast) and finding the right words to answer. Through that I can’t really be myself, because I’m not able to put my thoughts into words. I feel like the people at school think I’m a quiet girl without an own opinion. But the opinions are all stored in my head, I just don’t get the time to look everything up in the dictionary to tell them in Spanish. Anyways I’m surprised how good I get along with my small vocabulary. I’m becoming a master in indicating if it’s appropriate to just smile and nod even though I didn’t understand anything, through listening to the voices of the people.

My sleep here is still very bad (another reason to miss home with the comfy bed). So the circles under my eyes are getting darker with every day. Luckily someone invented this thing called concealer. My sleeping problem doesn’t make it easier to feel happy here. But I have no idea what I could do against it.

At the area rep meeting, everyone was sounding very positive, except me. To be honest I kind of feel like a looser. I’m the only one that doesn’t manage the life here without my family. After the meeting I asked Santiago (the area rep Portoviejo) if I could talk to him alone. So there I told him, that I don’t feel happy at all and that I am very homesick. He then promised me that he would help me to search for something I could do in the afternoons. But as I know the ecuadorian people, I’m sure that won’t happen very soon. He told me that if nothing would change with my feelings, we could look for a new host family, where I would feel better. I start believing that that’s maybe the best option. But I trust Santiago that he know what he does, so I will wait some weeks.

After all the negativity 3 things I appreciated:

  • After school when I took a taxi home, the taxista started a conversation and I actually was able to answer without feeling totally insecure and scared because of the language
  • The girlfriend of my host uncle asked me if I wanted to go to the gym with her, what is very nice from her. Sadly I didn’t have time then.
  • That I could spend an afternoon with friends that talk the same language as me and I dind’t have to eat rice for lunch one time.

Military school, what’s that?

Hi everyone out there

So now I’ve been going to my new school for one week and I thought I would try to describe it to the people at home. School is so different here. You can’t understand this until you’ve seen it on your own.

  • The school starts at 6:45 a.m, so to me that means to get up very early every day because it takes about 15 minutes to drive there.
  • We first have a “Parade”, where all students (about 650) stand outside and listen to the instructions of the inspector. The girls of my class like to talk a lot, but there are students from higher grades that watch over us and remind us to be silent.
  • Then we walk back to class and the teacher comes at 7:15. Or at least the teachers should come then. Usually they are too late 🙂
  • Then we have 3 hours of lessons, 30 min. break and three more hours. Per day we have 4 different subjects.
  • In the break we usually go to buy something to eat at the “bar”. It is really cheap there. You get a hamburger for 75 cents.
  • In our class we are 32 people, so that is really a lot compared to swiss school classes
  • Everytime the teacher gets into the classroom we all have to stand up and wait until the teacher allows us to sit down.
  • Because it’s a military school teachers and inspectors call the students “Kadete” plus family name. The nametag on my uniform is just “Annette”. I think that’s easier for the teachers to remember than my family name. (By the way, I haven’t taken a photo of the uniform yet, I’m gonna post one in the next blog post)
  • The school is quite clean and it’s even possible to go to the toilet without being totally disgusted (what wasn’t possible at the other school)
  • It really depends on the teacher how concentrated the class works. In some lessons it is quite quiet (<- that’s a funny constellation 😀 ) and in others everyone walks around in the classroom, talks, sleeps or does some kind of homework they didn’t do at home. I find those lessons funny because then I’m not just doing nothing, but I talk to the others or at least listen to them chatting and it is just so different.
  • But the school is definitely stricter than the other one and I also notice that the students here are more willing to learn and get an education
  • The relation between students and teachers is very different than what I have ever seen. It is totally normal to hug your teacher sometimes or to slap them slightly when they make a stupid joke. It is a much more amicable relation. But also here it depends on the teacher.

    My new friends and me at school

    My new friends and me at school

  • You often get called “mi amor” (my love), “mi hija” (my daughter) or “mi niña” (my girl) by the teachers. That’s another way they show their friendliness here.
  • In the lessons the teachers don’t say a lot. There are usually groups of students that present something. Often they just read out loud the text of a school book and write some sentences on a big piece of paper, that they hang on the wall.
  • Here all kinds of people start talking to me. The small kids, the oldest from school, the teachers, inspectors, everyone. They are very curious.
  • The school is locked, so if you want to leave classes earlier than the others, you can’t. Also there are always military men standing at the entrance to the school and checking the people that go in and out.
  • The people here share everything. If you have 5 pieces of chocolate it is sure that you will only get to eat one of them. That is a part of the host friendly culture here and I love it. In Switzerland people share too but I know a lot of people that don’t like to share the food they just bought with everyone else. I also understand that but people like that would be very little accepted here.
  • Also all are friends. Here everyone hugs, kisses and cuddles everyone. And it doesn’t matter if that person is a boy or a girl. If you see a boy and a girl holding hands or him giving her a kiss on the forhead, it doesn’t mean they are a couple, that’s just how friends treat each other here.

    Once when I was nearly falling asleep in class, the girl sitting behind me, started to scratch my back (who doesn’t love that feeling? 🙂 ). To her that was totally normal to do, even though she didn’t know me well, but I got so touched by her heartwarming act of kindness that I couldn’t hold back some tiny tears coming up to my eyes. Also because that was something my mum always did to me when I was little and the feelings just overwhelmed me.

  • The level of english here is quite bad, but there are three people in my class that can speak some. They all learned it by themselves outside of school and it makes me happy to see their effort to learn a new language. To us learning english isn’t very difficult, because it’s a germanic language too. But for people that only speak spanish, learning english is quite some work.

    Gabriel, the tallest boy in class and me

    Gabriel, the tallest boy in class and me

  • In sports classes the boys play football and the girls just sit around talking.
  • I’m the tallest girl in class with my 1.72 meters and there are only two or three boys taller than me. We all like to make fun of that 🙂 On the photo you can see the uniform for sports (Yes, I get to go to school in those comfortable pants twice a week)

That’s quite a lot information I know, but I haven’t even written about everything 😉

In general I feel very well at school, even though it’s quite boring sometimes, because I don’t understand what they say in class. But the people are very nice to me and make effort to integrate me. I’m very thankful for that.

 

I still feel homesick quite often, but I hope it will get better soon and I’m trying my best. At this point, after one month here in Ecuador I want to thank everyone who is always there for me when I need it and tries to help and motivate me over Skype or Whatsapp. GRACIAS

Montecristi

So this weekend I finally saw a bit more of Manabí. Manabí is the name of the province I live in. Portoviejo is the capital.
Ecuador has 24 provinces all together. These are subdivided in cantons. The province of Manabí is one of the three most populated provinces in Ecuador. And of course everyone wants to know, where I know this from… Wikipedia my friends, Wikipedia 😉

So, about my weekend. On Saturday we went to Montecristi. That’s a canton (and a town) about 40 minutes away from Portoviejo.

View over Montecristi

View over Montecristi

After leaving 1 hour later than originally planned (totally normal here in Ecuador), we drove over the “highway” (The quotation mark is definitely needed here) to Montecristi. The town is known for it’s beautiful handmade accessories such as Panama hats (that actually originated from Ecuador), bags, wood art, jewelry and much more. We always travel by car here and I start liking it because in that way I can see so much of the country. The “highway” leads through villages, nature and cities and it’s very exciting to watch outside of the window.

In Montecristi we visited a “tourist place”. Maybe you should know that in Ecuador most of the tourists are native people that want to visit other places of their country. So I still was the only

“Gringa” (this is how they call white people here) up there. We visited a museum about “Alfaro”, a

The "tourist place"

The “tourist place”

very important ecuadorian president. I didn’t really understand what he had to do with Montecristi, but I think it was something very important. The guide talked a looooot, so I soon didn’t listen anymore. I actually was surprised about how many Ecuadorians were visiting the museum and how good it was equipped. During the guided tour a girl started talking to me. She asked me if I was an Ecuadorian and when I said no, she wanted to know where I came from. We actually had quite a good conversation about Ecuador, exchange years and school, even though she had to say every sentence about three times because I didn’t understand. This is something I just love about Ecuador. The people are so open and friendly. I don’t think you can say they are more curious than swiss people, but here they are not afraid to ask. In Switzerland everyone keeps their questions to themselves.
After that we went to look at all the shops that were standing next to the museum. They had a lot of beautiful things there 🙂 .

Camila and me in one of the shops. She's wearing a handmade Sombrero

Camila and me in one of the shops. She’s wearing a handmade Sombrero

Then we drove futher to Manta to eat lunch. Manta is known as the city with the best food in whole Ecuador. We ate at a restaurant right next to the street (there are a lot of those here), and it was delicious. Just like everything here actually 🙂 . Then we drove home but already one hour later we drove to Manta again to eat with the whole family. They told me that the restaurant was one of the best in whole Manta, but the prices were still lower than at a swiss lunch restaurant. There we ate delicious food again and we came home at about 11.30 at night.

On the next day we had to get out of the house at 7.30, so you can maybe imagine how hard it was to get up. Especially for me, because I don’t sleep well at night. Then we drove to Santa Ana, a little town next to Portoviejo. It has a very nice church, where my host great-grandmother wanted to join the mess. People here are very religious. Most of the citizens are catholic. I’m not very religious and I’ve never been in a catholic mess before, so it was all quite new for me. I didn’t understand anything and at some point I got really sad. I thought about our church in Switzerland, how my parents don’t like to go to the church and how much I miss home.

In Santa Ana (Luis, me, Maria and my abuelita)

In Santa Ana (Luis, me, Maria and my abuelita)

After that we drove through the town, and I must say I liked it a lot. It was exactly what I always had imagined Ecuador to be like.  I hope I can go there again soon and walk through the streets.

After that we drove to Portoviejo again and bought some typical sweets from Rocafuerte. Rocafuerte, a little town, is know for the “dulces” they produce. Just like everything here they are extremely sweet, so I don’t like all of them, but it is really great to taste so many different kinds of food here.

That’s it for now 🙂

PS: Sorry for the quality of some photos. I usually don’t bring my camera very often, because I don’t want to risk to lose it.

The week of doing nothing

Hola everyone 🙂

So before telling you more about the caption, some words about my weekend:

20150906_163007

The typical mall here in Ecuador

On Saturday I went shopping with some girls from my old school (more information about that later 🙂 ). We went to the mall, watched around and ate a delicious dessert. Again I was surprised how similar many things here are to Europe. I had never expected to find a Mall that looks like every other Mall at home. We went to a “play store”, where you can play games like tabletop football, car games and a thing where you have to throw a ball in certain places. That seems to be a big thing here and there were many people in the store. It really was nice with the girls, even though the conversation wasn’t very fluent because of my spanish. After that we went to the park, where some people were playing music. It really was an ecuadorian spirit 🙂

Of course we took some selfies (Me, Camila, Leslie)

Of course we took some selfies (Me, Camila, Leslie)

On Sunday we went to Manta again. On the way back, we went to pick up Maria (my hostmum) from work. Yes, she worked 7 days in that week. It’s crazy here. So, while we were waiting for her, Camila (host sister) got her arm stuck between two benches. As soon as she started crying, about 5 other fathers came running to help Luis (host dad) and me to get her out. It really was nice to see. In one minute someone had organized a stick to push the benches away. That was something that really made me think of home. In Switzerland it would not be normal to run to help someone if they don’t ask you. Here everyone came to help the little girl and it seemed to be totally normal. After that Camila had her arm free again, everyone went away as if nothing had happened. People here are much more open and caring and that is something I love 🙂

Camila and me joking around while I was babysitting her

Camila and me joking around while I was babysitting her

Week number 3

On Friday I had decided I didn’t want to go to my old college anymore. I didn’t like it there and didn’t find a good connection to the people. So luckily my host grandfather organized a new college for me. It’s a military college, smaller than my old one and has more discipline.
On Monday we went to talk with the director, but he didn’t have time, so we got an appointment on tuesday at 11. But because I was alone at home and I couldn’t find the keys, we were much too late. I first had to ring my host parents to ask where the keys were and when they finally took the phone it was already 11:20. We still went there and waited for about 1 hour, but in the end we just got an appointment for wednesday. I would say through being late to such an important appointment I can call myself a typical Ecuadorian now 😉 No, jokes, there’s still a lot to do for me to become that.
On wednesday we talked to the director of the school, a major in military outfit who is really nice, but because to him it is very important that everything will be good for me,he insisted on talking to my host parents. So on tuesday, after waiting for 1 hour, my host parents and I talked to him again and we finally could arrange everything.
So despite waiting for and talking with the director, I didn’t do anything and just sat at home. But luckily I had a really good book to read.

School number 2

On Friday I had my first school day… Again. I was really nervous and very afraid, because I was alone there and my spanish isn’t very good. But then I came to the class room and everyone was so nice. It was very different from the other college. The people came up to me and told me “Hi, I’m Genesis, nice to meet you, how are you?” and gave me the hand or a kiss on the cheek (that’s totally normal here). They didn’t run to me and overwhelmed me with thousands of questions just because I am white and blonde. Of course they asked me a lot, but in a much more polite way. Also the director and the teachers told the class, that to them it’s important that the other students help me to integrate here and that showed me that they really cared.
At the beginning of the day, at 6.45 am. we all had to stand in rows on the sports court outside, while the inspectors (all men in uniforms and with strong voices) talked and gave commands. We are going to do that every morning… *Uff*. Then we had lessons for 3 hours, a 30 minute break (where we bought something to eat at the bar), and another session of 3 hours. I don’t understand why they have such a tight schedule here. 3 hours school without break is definitely too long! I noticed that the level here is higher than at the other college and the class was more quiet. It is still totally different from Switzerland and much louder, but for me it was an improvement. I am going to write a bit more about the school next week.

To get home I had to take a taxi. It was the first time to take a taxi on my own, so I am quite proud about that. For the 12 minute ride, I paid 1.50$, so as you see taking a taxi here is very cheap. That’s also why about 50% of the traffic here are taxis.

My homesickness isn’t very strong anymore. I notice that the cultural shock is disappearing and that I’m getting used to the things here. I still miss my family and friends, but I’m already much happier than last week.

So again, a very long post. I’m really sorry for that, but when I first start writing I can’t stop 😉

I hope to soon get the time to write about the differences of the cultures here and there, but that will have to wait for now.

Adios muchachos 🙂

There are even these green things called trees at my school

There are even these green things called trees at my school

A photo of the college where I'm going to

A photo of the college where I’m going to

PLAYA

Hola,

So I’ve fought through week number two here in Portoviejo. I say “fight” because I still am very homesick and don’t feel happy very often. But of course I have also had some great moments 🙂

Beach
Last week we went to Manta and visited Luis’ (my Hostdad) parents. Manta is a town near Portoviejo, and it’s at the coast. So we left Camila (my hostsister) with the grand parents and went to the beach. In Manta there are many beaches and they all have a different name. Because Luis grew up in Manta, he knows every single one of them.

We went to a beach called Liguiqui

We went to a beach called Liguiqui

It was very nice there, even though no one was in the water. That was a bit weird for me, because in Europe when people go to the beach, everyone wants to go swimming in the sea.

My host parents Luis and Maria

My host parents Luis and Maria

Then we ate Ceviche, that’s a traditional coastal dish, that contains fish, lots lots of lemon juice and raw vegetables. Everyone in Ecuador loves Ceviche and they are very proud of the special recipe, but to be honest I didn’t like it at all. As I heard, there are only very few europeans that enjoy eating Ceviche. I am definitely none of them 😉 .

Here they eat a lot of fish, platano (green bananas), rice, beans, lentils, rice, platano, lemon and did I already mention rice?

Sunday we went to watch a show at Camilas school, where she should dance, but in the end she was one of the kids that just stood there, crying her eyes out. There I met my abuelita (grandma), but actually she is my great grandmother, because she’s the grandma of Maria. I really like that woman. She is very energetic and friendly and really open.

Later in the week, after school had started again (*ugh*), I went to the supermarket to buy some fruits. They really have some special fruits here. I am a bit disappointed that there are no fruit markets in Portoviejo. That was something I was really looking forward too. But the fruits in the Supermarket are good too, and very very cheap.

Sandía, piña y maracuja

Sandía, piña y maracuja

On wednesday I finally went outside once and didn’t sit inside on my own. I went to eat in a restaurant with a girl from Germany, Mia, who’s at the same school. The food was really good, but I think the waiter thought we were quite retarded. We had to ask “Qué” (what?) about three times, everytime he asked if we wanted something 😉 . I paid about 5 Dollars for the food and it was such a big portion, that I didn’t even eat everything.
It was really nice to get outside and see a bit of the town.

A photo from the first Schoolday. From left: Mia, me, Emma and Vincent

A photo from the first Schoolday. From the left: Mia, me, Emma and Vincent

I still am alone at home about 4 hours every day, because I can’t just go outside on my own without knowing the town or speaking spanish. That really bothers me a lot, because in these 4 hours I have nothing to do, so I miss home so much. I usually don’t cry often, but here I feel like I’m crying every day. I really really hope this will get better and that I get to do something. Because this is no solution.
On Friday I didn’t feel well, so I stayed at home. I still sleep very bad, I think that has to do with all the thoughts flying through my head. I had a bad head ache and I think I ate something my stomach didn’t like very much…
I was alone all day and my mood was at a very deep point. But in the afternoon I went to the manicure with my hostmom (only 6 Dollars for feet and hands! :O ) and in the evening we were invited to Marias parents. There the house is always full of people, so it was good to get some distraction of my not very positive feelings.

I really don’t understand myself anymore. I’ve always been a positive person, but here I feel like all these positive thoughts are hidden under a thick layer of sadness and they hardly ever get through that layer. I really am trying to enjoy everything, but it’s much harder than expected.

On monday I’m going to look at another school with my area representative of YFU (who also is my host grandfather), to see if I like that school better. I really hope my mood will get better when I can go to another school and meet other people.

Oh and before I forget it: the house here is not nearly as clean as at home. Believe it or not Mama and Pappa, but I voluntarily clean my room, do the dishes and clean the kitchen every day. I had never even thought about it that it’s not normal to always have a clean house, but apparently it isn’t like that everywhere. I think my host mother doesn’t enjoy cleaning at all.
Here we also walk around in the house with our shoes. The socks would be dirty in 1 second if I would take off my shoes. Yes, I’ve already experienced that some few times 😉 . You don’t let go of habitudes easily.

So for the end the three things I appreciated this week:

  • When walking through the streets, I saw a man giving water to a thin, homeless dog. This really made me happy, because I usually feel like no one cares about the homeless animals here.
  • When I had a little break – down while eating dinner, my host mum came up to me and hugged me really really tight, and that was exactly what I had needed to feel a bit better
  • I had a really good conversation with the YFU – representative. He told me that I can always go to him if there is any problem, and that he will do his best to help me or the other YFU students. It really feels good to know there is someone there for me all the time and he is a very nice guy.
Another photo of the cathedral I see every day

Another photo of the cathedral I see every day

The beach

The beach

The first week in Portoviejo

Buenas tardes mundo

Now I’ve been in Portoviejo for almost one week and there’s a lot to tell.

The ride and arrival:

We travelled from Quito to Portoviejo by bus. It was a bit sad to say goodbye, but we were all excited. We swiss girls

We saw the Cotopaxi once more and of course I took a photo

We saw the Cotopaxi once more and of course I took a photo

still keep in contact through whatsapp, so we didn’t worry to much. The ride took about 6 hours and it was very nice. Ecuador doesn’t have a real highway like in Switzerland, so you can imagine in which stade my back was when we arrived. We saw a lot of  nature and I got a first impression of the 4

landscapes in Ecuador.

When we arrived in Portovieo the families were all waiting. I recognized mine

My room

My room

immediatly. They had even made a welcome sign for me. It was very exciting to see them. We went directly to the supermarket, where I got kisses from everybody my host mum knew, so I was really impressed by the openness of these people here.

Then we went to the house, but just very quickly, because my family wanted to go to Manta to see my uncle, who just had proposed to his girlfriend. So at that evening I already got to know all the family here. It was quite much for me, so in the evening I was really homesick.

My host family:

My host parents are really really nice to me. Also my sister here, whom I share room with is very cute. But like every little child she likes to get attention, so that can be quite much sometimes.

I am missing my home in Switzerland very much, but my host fam. says they totally understand me and respect my feelings. That is very nice and helps me a lot.

Culture:

The "iglesia" right next to my house (inkl. loud bell ringing every morning and evening)

The “iglesia” right next to my house (inkl. loud bell ringing every morning and evening)

I guess I have what you call a cultural shock. It is so extremely different here from home, that I sometimes get the feeling everything overwhelmes me. I guess this is normal, but I would never have thought it would be so hard. I feel bad for being sad so much, but I just cant turn my feelings off. I really want to enjoy my first time here, but it’s hard. 

Dear future exchange students: Count with some personal problems in the beginning. I don’t want to make anyone afraid, I’m sure this will be awesome, but just count with it 😉

Let’s start with walking outside: South America is known for its “Macho culture”. This is true. I can’t walk through the streets without hearing some comments from men. It doesn’t make it better that I’m blonde and white… But I guess that’s something you just will have to get used to. Another thing is the food. I really like everything I’ve eaten here until now and I’m very happy my family accepts that I don’t eat meat, but everything is sooo unhealthy.

These are Epanadas.  A delicious Ecuadorian dish

These are Epanadas.
A delicious Ecuadorian dish

They eat at 8:30 at night, so in the morningI’m never really hungry, but then I have breakfast. And everyone eats so much. I already feel like 5 Kilos heavier. I don’t even want to imagine what I look like when I come back 😀 For me it’s quite difficult because in Switzerland I was used to move everyday and here I feel like I don’t move at all. I really really need to change that, I just don’t know how. I think it would also help with my homesickness. I also don’t sleep very well. Becuase we live in the centre of the town it’s very loud outside at any time of the day/night and closing the windows doesn’t help at all. Also it is new that I don’t have my own room.

School:

On monday I had my first school day at the colegio nacional de Portoviejo. There are 3 more YFU exchange students at that school too. We needed to say something in front of all the students, so that was quite special, because there are about 1000 students. Then I got into my class and the first thing everyone did, was run to my table and talk and talk and talk. And of course I didn’t understand anything and was totally overstrained. But they are all very nice to me and try to explain every word to me. But I started bringing a dictionary to school 🙂 But it still is very difficult for me because of the language. I find it quite boring becuase I don’t understand the teachers, so I just learn some spanish words for myself and try not to fall asleep.

Here you see my school uniform

Here you see my school uniform

To be honest I don’t like the school very much. It is quite unorganized and we are 40 students in the class. So you can maybe imagine how loud it is in class. Everyone is talking, putting on make – up, listening to music, drawing in their books, the teachers are shouting and I’m just like “Why did I never appreciate the silence at my swiss school?” On tuesay my english teacher even asked me to correct some tests, because she hadn’t had time, so I actually made grades for people here.
Also the teachers don’t seem to care very much about what their students do. I think they just want to finish their lesson as fast as possible.

So maybe you understand that because of this and many other cultural reasons, I don’t have a very easy start. But I’m trying my best and hope that it gets better soon.

3 things I appreciated

I wrote quite many negative things, so now I just want to list three little things that made me happy last week:

  • At the first school day to girls of my class offered me to follow me home because they thought I maybe didn’t know the way (What was true 😉 )
  • Like I mentioned before, my host parents understand me and support me with my homesickness and everything else, like that I’m a vegetarian. That means a lot to me
  • On thursday a girl in my class told me that she noticed I had improved my spanish since monday. I didn’t notice that myself, so that little comment of her made me very happy

My first days in Ecuador

So it has happened a lot since my last blog post.

The flight:

We had to meet at 5.30 am. in Zurich – Kloten, so it was very early to wake up. My parents drove me there and it was a very sad goodbye. It is the first time to be without my family for more than 2 weeks.

Two YFU – volunteers lead us swiss girls to the gate. From there we were left alone. The flight to Madrid took 2,5 hours. That time went by quite fast. I sat next to Elodie, we talked a lot, so I felt very excited and not sad at all.

When we arrived in Madrid, we were quite stressed at first to find our gate. As some may know Madrid is a HUGE

The first time to see Ecuador with my own eyes

The first time to see Ecuador with my own eyes

airport. We even had to take the underground – train. But in the end we found our gate. We flew with Iberia, quite a cheap airline, so I have to say the flight wasn’t very good. There weren’t any TVs and the food was really not good. But Elodie and I sat next to an ecuadorian, wo lives in Austria, so it was interesting to talk to him. But the flight was still very boring.

The arrival camp

We arrived at about 6 pm. and we were really excited but still very tired. There are 29 exchange students from YFU

from left to right: Noelle, Elodie, me, Carolyn

from left to right: Noelle, Elodie, me, Carolyn

in Ecuador, 17 of them are germans. So there are really many germans. The food here is really good. We are in a facility that is taken care of by nuns. And they really cook delicious food. My first impression of Ecuadorian food is really great. It is extremely beautiful here as you can see on the photos.

I share room with a german girl, Alicia, and she’s very nice. The first night was hard because I got a bit homesick then, but on the days there is so much happening, that I don’t even have the time to worry. We have some kind of workshops that are lead by volunteers from YFU here in Ecuador. They are all really nice and it’s very great that we can ask them questions about everything. I think all these activities prepare me for the arrival in my family and in the school. So I’m very happy about being here.

The garden here is really beautiful :)

The garden here is really beautiful 🙂

Today in the evening we had a talent show, where every country had to

The Cotopaxi breaking out. (Sorry for the crappy quality)

The Cotopaxi breaking out. (Sorry for the crappy quality)

represent themselves, so we from Switzerland performed some typical swiss songs (such as “wenn eine tannigi Hose het”). We actually won, so now I’m the proud owner of an ecuadorian scarf 😀

Tomorrow I’m going to meet my host family in Portoviejo. We are going there by bus with some other exchange students.

I will write a new blog post as soon as there are new things to write about 🙂

Muchos saludos, Annette