PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 August, 2006, 12:00am

Name: Bernarda Espinoza Castro

Age: 16

City/Country: Cuenca, Ecuador

School: Colegio Asuncion

Star sign: Capricorn

Ecuador is known as a small paradise because of its biodiversity and wealth of climates and landscapes.

It's also famous for its volcanoes, and its hikes up to the snow-capped peaks of the Andes.

It has a long history with lots of stories and legends.

The city I live in, Cuenca, is the third most important in Ecuador. It is called the 'Athens of Ecuador' because many notable writers, philosophers, artists and poets were born there.

Even though Cuenca is the economic centre of Southern Sierra, it maintains its old-world charm. Most of the streets are made of cobblestones, the buildings have a colonial look with colourful balconies, and the plazas and markets are well preserved.

I'm a science student, about to start my last year of secondary school. I spend about two hours on my school work each day. I study hard but also find time to relax.

My mother language is Spanish, but I also speak English and a little Italian.

In Ecuador, it's common for friends to visit each others' homes. Houses are big and friends cook, do homework or watch videos together.

I like swimming and sometimes go trekking with my family in the countryside near my house. I also enjoy reading and listening to music.

During the holidays, my friends and I go to the beach, which is about four hours away.

I'm an only child. My parents are divorced and I live with my mum, but I have a good relationship with my dad. I see him every day. I love them both.

I don't need to cook, because my mum is skilled in the kitchen. But I help her set the table and do the washing up after dinner. My other chore is to tidy my bedroom.

What Ecuadorians eat depends on what part of the country we are from. It varies with altitude and agricultural conditions.

There is a variety of fresh fruit available, particularly at the lower altitudes.

Seafood, such as prawns and shrimps, are popular in the coastal regions. There's a typical Ecuadorian dish made of potatoes served with pig's blood.

I'm a little shy with strangers, but with my friends I'm open and sociable. I love sharing my time with people from different countries and cultures because it helps me to open my mind and discover the world.

I'm not sure what I want to do in the future. After graduation, I'd like to go to university in another country, maybe in Europe. I hope to be a doctor one day.

Ecuadorians are usually friendly and polite. You can make friends with them easily and they are always ready to help, especially if you are a foreigner.

During Christmas time, my city holds a magnificent parade called Pase del Ni?o Viajero.

It's considered the largest and best Christmas celebration in Ecuador.

Lots of musicians take part and children dress up in colourful costumes or as biblical figures.

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 Bernarda.