PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 April, 2006, 12:00am

Name: Maria Jose Rodriguez

Age: 18

Country/ City: Ecuador, Latacunga

Star sign: Aquarius

I'm a person who is always smiling and dreaming. I also like to listen to people talk. I believe there are valuable lessons to be learned from bad experiences. Life is about learning and enjoying each day.

I don't believe in luck - we create our own destiny. As long as you follow your heart and do the things you love, everything will be fine.

In my family, there is my father (Patricio), mother (Maria) and two younger brothers (Mirko and Juan). We get along well. My mother gives me confidence and support and is my good friend.

I have minor arguments with my brothers, but we calm down after an hour and are able to talk and play again.

On weekends, we usually go hiking or play football. We sometimes go on a trip or dine with my cousins, uncles and grandparents.

My role models are my parents, my grandmother Rosita and the principal of my school in Ecuador. I don't have a famous idol.

I'm not very good at sports, but I like football, badminton and tae kwon do because they're fun and require concentration.

I've finished my schooling in Ecuador and am currently an exchange student with AFS Intercultural Exchanges in Hong Kong.

I speak Spanish and English and am trying to learn Putonghua from my classmates. They are very kind.

I'd like to have a job relating to art, social science, ecology or community service. I want to help solve my country's problems.

I'm very proud to be Ecuadorian. I like everything about the country, especially the scenery, traditions, music and food.

It has fiestas (festivals) with music, parades, costumes, beauty contests, dancing, drinking, feasting, bullfighting, cockfighting and firecrackers. We love a good party and there's nothing like a fiesta to generate a celebratory mood.

My hometown is small and quiet. It has beautiful scenery because it's near the Cotopaxi volcano.

The people are very open and cheerful. Latacunga is well-known for its local delicacies of chugchucaras (roast pork) and allullas (biscuits). It's also where the La Mama Negra (the Black Mother) festival is held each November. It commemorates the revolt of black servants against their white masters. We celebrate by dancing in honour of the Lady of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced). Men dress up as women and paint their faces black.

Ecuador has something to offer every type of traveller. If you like beaches, hot weather and seafood, the coastal cities of Guayaquil, Esmeraldas or Maanta are perfect. But if you like cold weather, mountains and volcanoes, head to Quito, Ibarra, Cuenca or Loja, which are located in the Sierra region.

Jungles full of wild animals are found in Cuyabeno, Tena and Zamora, which are in the Amazon region. The Galapagos Islands (above) is the best place to see unique flora and fauna.

If you want to make friends with teens from other countries, send an e-mail to yp.epal@scmp.com. Sunday Young Post will forward all e-mails to Maria.