CHS Senior Enjoying AFS Exchange to Paraguay

Photos Submitted by Amber Halbach
CHS senior Amber Halbach and Thais, her host sister, wear kimonos for a Japanese festival in Yguazu, Paraguay, where over 75 percent of the population is of Japanese descent.

Amber Halbach

Hi, everybody! It’s Amber Halbach with another update from Paraguay. It hasn’t been that long since my last article, but a lot of things have changed!

First of all, I have changed host families because there were some challenges with my first host family. At first, AFS couldn’t find a new family, so I was staying with a volunteer from AFS Capiata as a temporary placement. I was with the temporary family for a few days when Thais, who is an exchange student who lived with my family last year, and her amazing family asked to have me stay with them for the rest of the year. It turned out the temporary family also wanted me to stay with them. I went from no family to having two, so I had to choose between the two families.

I thought a lot about what I wanted to do. In the end, I chose Thais and her family, which also meant me moving across the country and changing schools. My new family lives in an area that is completely opposite of Capiata, which is where I first stayed. My new town is rural, kind of like Chilton or Hilbert and a lot of the towns near Chilton, so it’s a lot more like home. My new family has been amazing, and we already have a great bond. I am learning so much more and just in general am having a way better time now.

I’m really excited. The town I am in now is called Colonia Yguazu, and it is way smaller than Capiata. It is really similar to Chilton in some ways. Another really interesting thing about Yguazu is that 75 percent of the town’s population is of Japanese descent, which means there is a lot of Japanese culture here. In my first month in Yguazu I have worn a kimono, danced in a traditional Japanese style and eaten way too much Japanese food.

Now, by no means can I speak Japanese, but there are so many people who speak in Japanese. It is a completely different experience. Yguazu is also about 30 miles from the border with Brazil, so I have actually been learning Portuguese, as well. We regularly travel into Brazil to go grocery shopping. It has been amazing so far to be experiencing a variety of cultures and communities.

Recently, I have reached the halfway point of my exchange, which means about five and a half months until I come back! Right now, I am on summer vacation until the end of February or the start of March. I’m not sure of the exact date, but then I will be going to a new school and have to start from scratch.

In the meantime, in February I am going on a vacation to Brazil. Thais and I get to stay with the family of an exchange student who stayed with my mom’s family in 1986. They live in Recife, which is a city by the ocean. When I go there, I am going to Carnival. Carnival is a festival that happens between the Friday before Ash Wednesday up until Ash Wednesday. People wear colorful costumes and masks, and there are parades, music and dancing. It is something I have heard about and always wanted to experience.

If you want to have all of these amazing opportunities that I have
had, it is more than possible to make it happen. If you have any questions about AFS or if you might even want
to do an exchange for yourself, contact Mrs. Karen Schuette, the AFS Chilton chapter president, at [email protected] or (920)418-0293.

And you can feel free to ask me any questions you have if you decide to apply. I can always help with the process or anything you might have questions about, whether it be about my exchange or how to do one for yourself. You can email me at [email protected]