You know you’re in the jungle when a monkey steals your seat.

As Day 5 of our Ecuador mission trip began, the monkeys were up and ready to go from the break of dawn.  Whether playing in the park or running all over the roof of our hostel during breakfast, they made quite a racket but were lots of fun to watch.

We hadn’t heard them in the morning before, most likely because Day 5 was the first that was clear and sunny outside for most of the day.  For the construction team, it was a welcome change in one sense and in another, a new challenge.  For the first time on the job site, we faced the brutal glare of the equatorial sun, and no one felt it more strongly than the roofers.

Chris Schwartz, Jeff Hunsucker, Marcos Araya, Phil Schwartz and Ryan Eyre did the majority of the “on top” work, laying cork board across the wooden frames we erected the day before.  As the solar bath continued, we all had to be reminded regularly to drink plenty of water, and were grateful for the sunblock we’d brought along.

Though not climbing on the roof, the rest of the team had plenty to do to keep them working hard.  Jose Morales, Mike Arcentales and I (Phillip) spent a good chunk of the time moving wood of various kinds from the storage shed out to the work site, as did several other teammates throughout the day.  Marc Wallace kept up the pace taking orders for different cuts on the support beams, while Chris McGuire kept the power saw humming literally all day long to make sure each piece of wood was cut to the right size.

The cutting was interrupted halfway through the morning when the electricity went out.  What we thought at first was a blown fuse from drawing too much power turned out to be a wider-reaching problem that affected the whole campus of Jungle Kids for Christ.  The bad news was that the whole place was without electricity for a couple of hours.  The good news was that they had a generator for us to use, so after a brief respite, the work continued full-throttle.

Day 5 also brought some startling discoveries, from the massive spider-like creature discovered in the girls’ bathroom to the slightly smaller but more menacing-looking spider we found in a woodpile.  Hopefully that was enough to fill our arachnid discovery quota for the trip.  The prize for the “best” discovery, however, goes to Abby Schwartz, who picked up a pile of wood and discovered a snake coiled up underneath.  One of the locals said it was a relative of a coral snake, but whatever it was, Abby’s husband Chris made sure it was dead.

Undaunted, the team continued and made even more progress than expected, finishing over half of the first roof layer and getting things ready for sheet metal, the final stage to come.

From cheese empanadas and fresh-baked bread in the morning, to arroz con pollo (rice and chicken) with plantains for lunch, the team was well-fed like usual and was grateful for good food to fuel the work.  We were rewarded with an excellent dinner of stewed beef and fried yucca as the day drew to a close at the hostel.

After great conversations and fellowship at dinner, some went straight to bed as others walked the town, taking in the sites.  The second day of construction had brought great progress for the team, aided by clear skies and good morale.  Little did they know that the next morning would bring a new challenge to overcome in the jungle of Ecuador…