So in the four weeks since arriving here in Ecuador, a lot has happened. This could be a pretty long post, but we shall see. Oh, where to begin….
Well, I arrived in Quito on a Sunday evening and my first sight of Ecuador was a rainy one. I found out later, we get an average of 35 ft of rain every year. My one bag took an eternity to get from baggage claim, I was standing there for just over an hour. I met up with my friend, Galo, who I know from him being in the States working on airplanes with Jesse. After meeting his mom and brother we got in the van and headed to his sisters house where he had been staying over the weekend for a family reunion. He ended up telling me that the flight number I had emailed him did not exist, but somehow he was at the Airport when I was, Someone must have been looking out for us.
We left for Shell the next morning, a beautiful 4-hour drive through the mountains. After several stops along the way for Galo to find a part for a car, we made it to Shell, my home for the next 3 months.
Shell is a very small town on the edge of the Jungle. The Airport is pretty much the length of the town but it goes a bit deeper. Mountains covered with thick jungle surround Shell, and clouds often cover the tops. Out of the four weeks I have been here. There have been 3 days that it hasn’t rained. The temperatures are perfect but the humidity is so high that I sweat more than I do in Florida. Another downside to the humidity is that nothing dries if you just leave it hanging in your room, even with a fan on.
The building I am here to finish is right on the airstrip and about a 2 minute walk from the MAF base which is right across the road from Nate Saint’s house. It has a main building that is two stories and is mostly office space. The back part is a hanger that is used to work on planes and cars. The car business is to try to make ITEC Ecuador self-supporting, but it is not working out very well. We are working on shutting down that business. The plane business is slowing down a bit too. Saint Aviation use to work from there, building RV10’s but we just sold our last one.
My job is to finish the second story of the main building before March 8th. Here in Ecuador, their buildings are all made of concrete, even the ceilings. Sometimes the roofs are tin. Thankfully, ITEC Ecuador has a tin roof. That did present a slight challenge, but we managed. So pretty much, the more I saw and realized I had to do, I was surprised, and unsure where to begin. I have done construction for quite a while, but never in Ecuador. There are a lot of things to take into account living in a rainforest that I normally didn’t have to consider working in Memphis. For instance, we had a leak on the exterior of the building and when I suggested we caulk it, I was informed that it was a bad idea. It takes a long time to dry because of the high humidity. Another thing is that because of all the rain, all the buildings are built in mud so there has to be more focus on the foundation. That’s just to mention a few things.
I was also under the impression that there was going to be another guy here that I would be working under who has done construction in Ecuador so he would be teaching me. Upon my arrival, I found that the whole project is on me to finish before the group gets here from the states on March 8th. So I basically realized that I have to build in a country I have never built in, with helpers who cannot understand me or I them, and I have a deadline to meet. Bring it on.
So construction started right away with me working on the ITEC building during the day and finishing the room I was going to be living in at Galo’s house. I was shown which route to take when I walk to ITEC, and then on my walks I learned the general layout of Shell, where the HCJB Hospital is, the millions of bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants, and the like.
There is a river not far from the house they have created a slight dam to make a swimming area and small park. Galo has a German Shepherd that he affectionately named Booger, and I take him for walks down there sometimes. I went wading up and down that river one afternoon. It is such a pretty river.
The other thing that started right away was the learning of Spanish. Immersion is quite a way to learn. It is both embarrassing, and challenging, but makes some hilarious stories. Galo tells me to make trips into stores or bakeries to force me to try to speak and understand Spanish and to get use to hearing it in general. Thankfully the people are somewhat used to seeing missionaries around here so they are generally kind and understanding. However, when they see you struggling and stumbling through your Spanish, or just using a word instead of a sentence, they have this knowing smile that makes you want to go crawl into a hole.
Working with my helper, Carlos, has been educational too. You have both of us trying to explain things in each others language. He knows less English than I do Spanish. It takes several minutes before we get the idea of what we are saying, there is a lot of pointing, and body language. But we are getting better.
One day I had just finished running on Galo’s treadmill and it was slightly raining outside so I went outside and took my shirt off too cool off in the rain. The guys that work the car business live on the bottom floor of the same house I do and they saw me and invited me in where they were watching TV all three of them saw all of my scars and were asking me what they were from. Now, explaining my former heart problems is already difficult in English. Add trying to explain with my lame vocabulary of Spanish. Wow. It was a long conversation.
Then they were trying to ask me if I had eaten dinner yet. When I said no, they asked me to go out to eat with them. So we all went to eat at a Chinese place. It was quite interesting. I was trying to get fried rice with the meat and vegetables. So I was trying to explain that to them to order for me. So you have an English guy trying to explain what he wants through and Ecuadorian, who is trying to explain that to a Chinese woman. When my plate came back it was a huge pile of fried onions, peppers, and that kind of loveliness.
I did end up going back this past week and managed to order the right stuff. And when they asked if I wanted the big plate or the small I said big because I hadn’t eaten breakfast, and I was taking lunch late. They brought out a plate with a mountain of friend rice on it. If any of you have seen Game Plan and remember the scene when the little girl is looking at the huge plate of spaghetti, that is what my plate looked like, I am not joking.
We have all the walls plastered, foam on the ceiling to help deaden the sound of the daily rain, and the tile in the bathrooms. I am hoping that I will have a good bit of the drop ceiling finished before Galo gets back on the 13th and then I will finish installing the bathroom hardware. I am hopeful that I will have this finished before Jimmy arrives with the team on March 8th. I really appreciate all your prayers and support. You are what make it possible for me to be here doing this for ITEC