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.



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




Mit dem schönen Frühlings- (fast schon sommerlichen) wetter kommt auch wieder ein bisschen Leben in Tartu. Abgesehen, dass die Leute nicht mehr nur mit Kapuze auf dem Kopf und hochgeschlagenem Mantelkragen durch die Stadt hasten sondern sich in den grünen Parks aufhalten, alles blüht und der Brunnen auf dem Rathausplatz wieder läuft, fanden letztlich die Studententage (Tugenditepäevad) in Tartu statt. Die bestanden aus einer Reihe von verschiedenen Veranstaltungen und Traditionen. Es gab zum Beispiel sowohl das Öölaulupidu (Nachtliederfest) als auch das Öötantsupidu (Nachttanzfest) statt, wobei ich bloss zu letzterem gegangen bin. Es hat riesigen Spass gemacht, auf der Strasse estnische und auch andere Volkstänze zu lernen. Meine Gastschwester hat mir erklärt, dass Volkstanz – vermutlich nicht wie auf dem Rest der Welt – in Estlandtotal in ist und die Volkstänzer die Coolen sind, was ich sehr sympatisch finde, und es hat auch wirklich sehr viel Spass gemacht.
Dann gab es noch eine Tour spät abends durch Tartu, wo ich mit Carolin und einer Freundin war. Auf dem Rathausplatz ging es los, duch die Stadt und am Fluss entlang, wo es durch die Dämmerung sehr schön war. Die letzte Station für mich und Carolin waren die Ruinen auf dem Domberg die letzte Station, da es schon sehr spät war und der nächste Tag ein Schultag war (ausserdem darf man als Minderjähriger in Estland bloss bis um 11 draussen sein). Normalerweise kann man im Dunklen nicht auf diese Ruinen aber an diesem Tag waren sie extra geöffnet.
Eine Tradition der Stundentage ist es, dass die Studenten der Flughochschule mit ihren nicht-fliegenden Flugobjekten in den Fluss springen, was ich eine sehr lustige Idee finde.

Les printemps arriveraient à l’Estonie et les hommes sont encore dans les parcs verts et les fleurs fleurissent et en fin de temps étaitent les jours des étudiants (Tudengitepäevad) à Tartu. C’est une Série des evénements et traditions. Il y étaient p ar example l’öölalupidu (Célébration de chants dans la nuit) et l’öötantsupidu (Cölébrations de la danse dans la nuit) où j’allais avec mes amies. Nous apprendions des danses etnoniennes (aussi des autres) et c’était si super. Ma soeur racontais que la danse folklorique et très tendance et c’était vraiment très sympa.
Une autre chose était une tour à Tartu dans la nuit où j’allais avec Carolin et une amie. Il commençait à la place de l’hôtel de ville et puis nous allions le long de la rivière et la dernière station pour Carolin et moi étaient les ruines à la Toomemägi (collines) où on habituellement ne peut pas aller à la nuit.
Une traditions de les Tudengitepäevad est que les étudiants de l’école d’aviation sautent avec des objets (non-)volants dans la rivière. C’est une idée très créative et c’était drôle regarder.



Letztes Orchesterkonzert / Le dernier concert avec l’orchestre

Wie sich das Austauschjahr dem Ende zuneigt, so fangen langsam die “letzten Male” an. Heute fand mein letztes – und vermutlich grossartigstes – Konzert mit unserem Schulorchester “Elleri Sümfoniett” statt. Wie auch beim letzten Konzert traten Solisten mit unterschiedlichsten Instrumenten auf. Nur waren es diesmal Schüler aus der Oberstufe (2-4-Kurs – ich bin im ersten). / Mon année à l’Estonie se termine bientôt, ce signifie que les “dernières choses” commencent. Aujourd’hui était le dernier concert aves notre orchestre de l’école (Elleri sümfoniett). Comme la dernieère foi était le concert avec des solistes, mais cette foi étaient les solistes du 2.-4. cours – je suis au 1er.)
Hier das Programm: (die Youtubevideos sind verlinkt) / Notre programme :

Hummel Trumpet Concerto in E Flat Major: I. Allegro con spirito

Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 23 in A movement 2&3 (ab min11)

Grøndahl: Concert for Trombone and Orchestra – Andante grave

Lalo: Symphonie espagnole, Op. 21 – I. Allegro non troppo (violin)

Concerto no.1 in D minor for Oboe and Orchestra II Grazioso (min 09:30-14:27)

Albeniz Malaguena (eigentlich mit Tuba, nicht Posaune und natürlich Orchester statt Klavier)

W. A. Mozart, Aria (Zerlina)

M. Ponce Concierto del Sur I Allegretto (-min 12:59)(Gitarre)

F.Lehar Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß (vocal)L’Italiana in Algeri. Rossini. (Le femmine d’Italia) parte 13/17 Haly Aria (vocal)

Kiel-Horn Concerto in F 1.Allegro appassionato

Sarasate Navarra (for two violins)

Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 I Allegro molto appassionata(min 00:48-13:58)


Turkey hunting – Truthahn jagen

Hab ich euch schon ein Mal von meiner besten Kollegin hier erzählt? Falls nicht…Sie heisst Rachel und lebt in der gleichen Nachbarschaft, wie meine Familie. Rachel’s Dad (Sean) ist ein leidenschaftlicher Jäger, wie viele Amerikaner. Ich habe schon vom ersten Tag an in der USA realisiert, dass Jagen ein grosses Hobby vieler Amerikaner ist. Mein Gastvater jedoch hält nicht so viel davon. Logischerweise wollt ich so gerne ein Mal jagen gehen, deshalb fragte ich Sean ob er mich einmal zusammen mit Rachel mitnehmen würde. Er war erstaunt als ich fragte, weil er immer gedacht hat, dass ich keiner Fliege etwas antun könne, doch er willigte ein. Leider mussten wir warten bis der Winter vorbei war und die “Truthahn Saison” began und wir alle eine mögliche Zeit fanden. Heute war es endlich soweit! Ich übernachtet bei Rachel, sodass wir morgens früh losgehen konnten. Es war früh! Um 4:30 Uhr standen wir auf und fuhren los zum Waldgrundstück, welches Sean besitzt. Als wir ausstiegen wurde mir der Ablauf gründlich erklärt und dan ging es los! Wir schlichen durch den Wald für ca. eine Stunde. Schliesslich fanden wir einen Truthahn und versteckten uns in der Nähe um einen Baum. Währenddem wir warteten “sprach” Sean wie eine Truthenne um den Hahn Anzug locken. Leider lief der Hahn in die entgegengesetzte Richtung und wir mussten unser Versteck verlassen und ihm folgen. Wir versteckten uns nochmals und warteten sehr lange ohne Erfolg. 🙁 Schliesslich meinte Rachel, die die ganze Zeit im Versteck geschlafen hat, dass sie zu müde sei und nach Hause wolle. Da wir keine Spure mehr finden konnten gaben wir auf.

Wieder zu Hause fragte mich Sean ob ich lernen möchte wie man mit einem Gewehr umgeht. Ja klar wollte ich, da ich nie mehr die Chance bekäme mit einem Gewehr zu schiessen. Wir stellten Zielscheiben, mit diesen kleinen Platten die zerspringen wenn du sie abschiesst, auf und dan wurde mir erst einmal erklärt wie man ein Gewehr hält da ich als “Stadtmädchen aus der Schweiz” keinen blasen Schimmer hatte 🙂 Anschliessend bekam ich fünf Schüsse und die Platte zersprang bei jedem Schuss. Sean konnte nicht glauben, dass es das erste Mal ist, dass ich überhaupt ein Gewehr in der Hand halte und alle Schüsse perfekt waren. Mein Stoltz und meine Freude war unbeschreiblich gross! der ganze Tag war ein einmaliges Erlebnis, dass ich sicher nie vergessen werde.

Rachel (rechts), ich (links)

Rachel (rechts), ich (links)

Cultural Exchange in South Africa

Michaela’s testimony, Cultural Exchange

from the left: Ida from Finland, Joshua from Germany, Yuri from Germany and me

from the left: Ida from Finland, Joshua from Germany, Yuri from Germany and me

At the end of February 2016, I was on my way to the Cultural Exchange. I was unbelievably excited about it. It was a huge opportunity to experience the culture and the lifestyle of people who live isolated and with a limited amount of luxuries and even necessities.

My host family even though a lot more people stayed in the house

My host family even though a lot more people stayed in the house

The first day was difficult for me. I realized that my host family could not speak English, beyond a few words. Only my host sister was able to hold an easy conversation. Another difficulty I faced was not being able to use water as much as I was used to. For example, there is no running water, so there are neither water toilets nor showers. People have to hope and pray for rain, so that they can get enough water for bathing.

The house I lived in had no proper roof or floor. Cooking outside was totally normal, because they did not want to use electricity for anything besides lights and a freezer. But I could get used to those things very fast. The only hard thing was the weather condition. It was extremely hot, so much that I sometimes felt like I was about to melt! It was incredible; I had never felt like this before.

But even that was not the biggest shock. The most difficult part of it was that I missed showering, but the people living here have to live like this every single day, not just for two weeks, but still they never complain. That gave us (Ida from Finland, Joshua and Yuri from Germany and me) a big motivation push. Anytime when we felt like this was too hard, we would remind each other that the locals live like this, and we should not be complaining.IMG-20160429-WA0007

Luckily, from the very first day, the school we attended was really great. All the students and the teachers were so happy that we were there. For the two weeks, we had almost no classes at all! For us exchange students, this was really cool, but for the local students with exams right at the end of the year, it is really hard. The teachers were in the school most of the time, but they simply did not feel like teaching, so they stayed in the teachers’ room all day. In my opinion, this is so unfair because most students want to learn, but they do not get a good chance. As I said before, foIMG-20160429-WA0004r us exchange students it was totally fine; we had a lot of time to talk, take pictures and dance.

A traditional ritual

A traditional ritual

During school time, we learned a lot about the local people’s lives. Our afternoon activities were also enjoyable. I spent most afternoons with the other exchange students, their host siblings and their friends. We went all together to town several times using taxis, which was a totally African experience! Also, went to a traditional healer, who read our future, taught us traditional dancing, let us try on their SiSwati clothes and made a ritual for us. I think that this was one of my favorite days. In the evening, I often went to different churches. Those with a lot of singing, clapping and dancing were just wonderful.

I have to say, in the beginning I counted the days. But after a week, the time went so fast, that I was really sad to leave after the two weeks. In the end, the difficult circumstances did not matter anymore. I was just really thankful for all that I could experience and learn. We had an amazing time without mobile phones, showers, fast food, etc.

And, I say it again, we were totally thankful for all the experience we got, all the people we met and all the things we learned. The Steenbok people were so kind to us; I had never seen such caring people before. They will always have a place in my heart.







Profile of Nondumiso – Michaela

Nondumiso is a seventeen year old girl from the deep rural area of Steenbok, Mpumalanga. For two weeks, she was my neighbour, classmate and friend. I would love to tell her story.

Nondumiso Ndlovu was born on the 16th of January 1999. Directly after her birth, her mother, Angel, gave “Ndumy” to her grandpa, who is staying in Steenbok, because she was not able to look well after her, and give her all that she needed. Nondumiso never met her father, so her mother did not have any financial support. Luckily, Nondumiso had her wonderful grandparents, with whom she grew up. Unfortunately, her grandma died when she was five years old.

When Nondumiso was eleven years old, her mother, who had been visiting her every Friday at her grandpa’s place, so that they would not lose contact, fell in love and married after a few months. Because Nondumiso’s mother and stepfather were both working, they could afford to take her to Nelspruit in their little home. She loved her parents and was incredibly thankful to spend so much time with them.

But sadly, both of them left the world way too early. In 2012, her mom died in a car accident, and her stepfather passed away because of an illness just one year later.

The town half an hour away from Steenbok

The town half an hour away from Steenbok

Since then, Nondumiso has been staying in Steenbok again, with her loved 71 year old grandpa who is a chief. That means that he is responsible that everyone in Steenbok sticks to the rules. Together, they go to church, which gives them hope.

As you can see, Nondumiso’s life was often hard and difficult. But because of her religion and her best friend, Nuguanda, who is more like a sister to her, she never lost her hope and her big dreams. Her biggest dream is to become an actress. When she was in grade 7, she won an award for “best actor in Mpumalanga Grade Seven”.

Ndumy is an incredible, strong girl, who never gave up on her hopes. It does not matter which stones the life pushed in her way, she will never stop believing. She will maybe fall but also always stand up again. I would not be surprised to see her in few years in a television soap.

Thank you so much Nondumiso for telling me your story. I will never forget you.