It is March and I can say that I have a real life here now. A great family, real friends, hobbies and lots of fun. My Spanish is so good now that I just talk and don't have to think about every other word. Of course it is not flawless, but that is not a problem. Then sometimes I even put a grin on the faces of the Ecuadorians. I know that it is not meant badly. Honestly I never thought I would feel and think like I do now. My life here is pretty perfect at the moment. I haven't been homesick for ages either. The last time I think during Christmas and New Year's Eve. I'm going to start telling you about that too.
Highs and lows
Christmas was the saddest time for me here in Ecuador. I love the Christmas time in Germany. That was simply the reason why I was not so happy here during this time. It was different. Just not Christmas at all as I know it. At that time I had wished that it would just drop out like some friends because the families have different beliefs. But now that it's all over, I'm glad to have been there.
It all started with my host mother digging a PLASTIC Christmas tree out of some corner at the end of November and putting it together. It was just up to my belly button. I haven't seen a real tree here, only plastic ones. The tree was then decorated completely purple. In the next time the whole of Machala was decorated. Every street light was decorated with something that made beeping Christmas music. From morning till night. You can't believe how happy I was about it. And there was a riiiesiger tree (of course plastic) set up on a square. This place was generally quite Christmassy. Nevertheless I did not get into Christmas mood. As well? It was the whole day around 30 ° here. Over the Christmas days my mother, sister and I went to Cuenca in the Sierra (mountains) to the family. There it was cold, but otherwise nothing like Christmas. We didn't even have a little plastic Christmas tree there.
The 24. The Christmas party went like this: my sister, cousins and I watched movies until 9 p.m., then we ate peacock, suddenly everyone said Merry Christmas to each other and there were presents, right after that everyone went to bed. But just everything without Christmas spirit. The only 5 Christmasy minutes were when we ate Christmas cookies and marzipan that my family sent me from Germany. After the day it was then also over with "Christmas". But here Christmas is just like in Germany in every family different.
New Year's Eve was actually much better. At this time I missed only incredibly Germany, therefore only actually. We were with the whole family in the house of my cousin. There are also a lot of aunts and other cousins and their children living there. In any case, other aunts and uncles came too. Then we drove to a street with a lot of "Ano viejos" to look at. Every family has something like this, either bought or homemade. These are figurines filled with firecrackers and such and lit at midnight. That should drive away all the bad things from last year. Until 24 o'clock we were all sitting together and talking. Then, unfortunately, it was not so much with fireworks, because it started to rain very hard. But a little went anyway. Then we ate and a couple of cousins, my sister and I walked around town and looked at the parties from the outside that we couldn't go to because they all cost $30-60 on New Year's Eve and that wouldn't have been worth it. But it was still quite funny.
The new year
Then it was already 2013. And there was only one month left until the 3 months of vacations. January was quite normal here. School, dancing, friends and family. I was also just really looking forward to my 2 trips in February. The first over carnival to a friend to Manta and the 2. with the family to the Oriente. It said only in the Oriente, but we drove through half of Ecuador. That was really cool!
So carnival in Ecuador is an experience! All go to the beaches, because there it really goes off. That's why I went to Manta to a friend's house. Actually carnival was only from Sunday to Tuesday, but we started already on Friday with friends. At this time you can buy Espuma at every corner. This is such a foam to spray. It brings so much fun. You can just walk through the street and spray people without them being angry. My girlfriend is also from Germany and we were both wet and full of this foam from Friday to Tuesday. We were mainly at the beach. There are stages and everything. And just party all the time. It was full with people, you can not believe it. My girlfriend and I were totally noticed as Germans and that's why we got a little more foam and water than the others. Virtually everyone who had a bottle with the foam, has sprayed us full. 2 times I have also got an egg off. But that's how carnival is here. It's just fun and everything is in a good mood. In the nights there were always concerts. So I got 6 concerts of really famous singers in days for nothing! Chino y Nacho were the highlight of all concerts. You have to experience carnival here!
I was a little sad when it was all over and I had to go home. But the fact that I went on vacation with my family 2 days later cheered me up again. We drove with a small bus for 9 people through half of Ecuador. I have totally seen a lot. First we went to Banos. The city is located at an active volcano and we bathed in hot springs, then to Ambato, then through the Oriente and then via Cuenca and back again to Machala. At night we always slept in a kind of youth hostel. We drove around the whole day and in between we looked at cities. Oh yes we also made a side trip to Colombia. And we were in a city where monkeys run free everywhere. While I am on the subject of monkeys. The ones in the jungle told us that they eat monkeys and wanted to sell us snake. So this is all supposed to taste like chicken. In this trip I really got to see a lot of Ecuador.
After the trip I then started with the social work that we have to do here from YFU. I had to babysit 1 year old babies every morning for a month. Playing with them and feeding them. The first time was totally exhausting because a baby just wanted to bite everyone. My job was to run after him all the time and make sure he didn't bite anyone. After 2 weeks he changed the group and it was so relaxing with the other babies. They were all sweet and lovely. After work I went straight to the dances. Now that I don't work anymore, I go to Crossfit in the morning, there you do really strenuous exercises for time. With coach and everything. After that I go to dance and in the evening I go to dance again. So I am 5 hours a day in aerodance and dance. It is like a second home for me here in Ecuador. As soon as I enter Aerodance I am the happiest person in the world. But one thing made me even happier: My birthday!
The night before my birthday I was with my sister and friend of my brother in a room and were just laughing and had our fun. Oh, meanwhile my mother, sister, girlfriend and daughter of my brother, me and 1-2 weeks a month also my brother live in this house. In the beginning only my sister, mother and me. But it is now better with a few more people, I think. So we were in the room and all of a sudden at just before 12 my host mom comes rushing in and yells at me to get to bed. I went then also. At 24 o'clock then all came with birthday music, cake and gifts in my room. It was so nice, I am now also really part of the family. Here it's so that on the birthday always the face in the cake is hit. Of course I totally forgot at that moment and I was fooled so I was very close with my face to the cake and boooom. All hands on my head and my face was in the cake. The night then went quite funny. The day was quite normal, except that I was still a little celebrated while dancing and there was still a cake. I thought that nothing more will come. But I didn't expect my surprise celebration on the weekend. I was told that we were going to an aunt's birthday party with a dress and quite beautiful. Once there, I was immediately taken to my cousin's room and she coaxed me until I put on her dress from her 15th birthday. "Just for photos". 15. Birthdays here are huge, the birthday girl has a dress like a princess on and just a huge party with all the trimmings. So I thought a little bit that the party was for me when I was made up even more and it was all about me. Then we went up and ALL my friends and relatives were there. Everything was so beautiful. There was singing for me and a DJ, a clown who was the presenter, and a good mood. It was a bit like a 15th birthday here. For info I became 17. It was the best party of my life. And I have never heard anything like it from any exchange student here .All this was organized by my mother, my sister and my dance teacher. I am so grateful to them for my best day here in Ecuador!
And the next 3 months will be good too! I'm still going to Miami with an aunt and other relatives, to the Galapagos Islands with my organization, and from May I'll have all my friends at school every day again. I will enjoy my last time here and I can do that because even though I do so much sports, I still get to do something with friends in between and on the weekends. And that is not a matter of course here in Ecuador. I am just so lucky with my host family. I have made a real effort to integrate, I help and get along with them. Now they trust me completely and want me to continue to enjoy my year here and do everything for it. What more could you ask for? I have a perfect exchange year in Ecuador!
Back in Germany
I have the feeling of being between two worlds. The one where I spent my whole life and the one where I spent my exchange year in Ecuador. 4 months I am here again and slowly I understand that Ecuador is over. Not forever, but for the next time. The most beautiful and exciting year of my life! Now I have not only one family, but two. I have not only one home but two and I am welcome in both of them. I am very happy about that. I did not want to go back to Germany, not yet. I built a life in Ecuador. I could not speak Spanish a year ago, nor did I know anyone there. Now I have family, friends and I speak the language. A hard way, but the best way I have ever walked. Maybe you can understand how hard it is to leave all this behind.
I could not believe at all that my exchange year was over. It went suddenly very fast! And suddenly it was my last day in Machala. I had to say goodbye to everyone I hadn't said goodbye to yet. It was totally unreal. I felt like I will see them again the next day anyway. When I was at my dance class for the last time, where I was almost every day, and I was having fun with my friends again, I realized that in less than 24 hours I would not be there anymore. I spent one of my most beautiful evenings with them and when I came home I talked with my host mother for a few hours. The rest of the night I couldn't sleep and in the morning, when I had to leave, came the worst and saddest moment ever for me. Saying goodbye to my host sister, who is now one of the most important people in my life.
So I flew back to Germany with some other German exchange students and when we landed we just wanted to get on the next plane back to Ecuador. But when I saw my family, everything was good again. The next days also, because all wanted to see me again and I had so no time to deal with Ecuador great. The weeks after were terrible. I didn't want to do anything, I didn't want to see anyone and I didn't want to do anything. I just wanted to go back to my familiar Ecuador. I also found everything stupid in Germany. No matter what, I compared it to things from Ecuador. Since I also had only 2 months of vacation, I also did not get distracted by school. There I should have had contact with people, but since it was vacations, I just cancelled almost every time, thinking that it will not be as much fun as in Ecuador anyway. Instead, I preferred to write or Skype with friends or family from there, look at pictures, and just mourn after everything. 3 days before school started, I realized that I don't want to go to the same school as before. And then luckily I was able to change spontaneously. Either I have changed quite a bit or my old friends have, because I don't want to have anything to do with most of them anymore. At the same time I also stopped playing handball. And that was my life the 11 years before Ecuador. Then I tried other things, like e.g.: Dancing. But then I didn't do it, because it just wasn't like with my Latin friends. I had the first time real dance withdrawal, because I was there every day dancing. I gave everything to find something like there, but nothing I enjoyed so much. Many people couldn't understand my decisions, I couldn't really understand them myself. I was just looking for something that makes me so happy that I feel comfortable here again. But that only became something when I came to my new class. Finally I had fun again and since then I can handle everything better again. Now I am actually doing really well in Germany again. But I live completely different than before the year.
My circle of friends has totally changed, I do other sports and I enjoy much more. I don't see my life in Ecuador as lost anymore, because I still have my friends and family there. I can't see them all the time, but I keep in touch with them. I am just overjoyed with this great year. Slowly I realize how the experience I have gained there is helping me to get ahead. I also appreciate many things much more. Just having a family, living in a house, going to school, little things of everyday life. My mother says that I'm still not quite at home in my head, but that's not bad. Ecuador is now simply a part of me and that will not change.
Memories stay forever, just like true friendship and family.