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Costa Rica Venture : 1 • June 15-June 28, 2016


June 28, 2016

Dear Will D., Will R., Jack, Ashley, Kelly Clare, Meredith, Sarah, Vaden, Margaret, Emily, Helen, and friends and family,

We can’t believe the trip is already over. Our two weeks together have flown by. Our wonderful group of kids has just left us and we already feel the quiet without them.

We made it back into Alajuela yesterday and held our final banquet dinner at Coffee Dreams, eating the traditional Costa Rican dish, Casado, one last time. Afterwards, we headed back to Los Volcanes for one last Moonup where we all expressed how meaningful the past two weeks have been. Needless to say, we were all emotional thinking that this would be our last time gathering in the evening together. Arrival day is such a distant memory at this point.

This morning we woke up and all went to the airport together, where we said our final goodbyes…this is the hardest thing that we do. We have all loved the laughs, stories and time spent together and we’ll miss our Moondance family so much. Thank you for allowing your kids to spend their summer with us. They are the reason this trip is so memorable. We will miss all of you so much and we hope to see you again soon!

Until next time, all our love and Pura Vida!

Tess (mom), Alex (uncle) and Ranny (dad)

Rafting the Pacuare

June 28, 2016

What a finale! We couldn’t have finished our trip in a better way than rafting down the Pacuare River. We were blessed with great weather, food, and even better guides.

Sunday morning, Will R. and Will D. were the first ones up as we were welcomed to a beautiful view overlooking the city of Turrialba. The volcano, also called Turrialba, was erupting in the background as we awoke to a delicious breakfast. After we fueled up, we were met by our first guide, Julian.  Julian joined our group as we drove the short distance to the beautiful Pacuare. After a safety talk, we divided into three rafts to begin our journey! The first boat out was Julian’s, with Alex, Sarah, Will R. and Ashley. The second boat was Steve’s, with Ranny, Jack, Emily, Helen and Margaret. The final boat was Abel’s, with Meredith, Tess, Will D., Vaden and Kelly Clare.  After a short distance, we stopped for our first swimming break! All jumped in and we’re happy to discover that it wasn’t cold in the river . After a little more rafting, we made one more stop. We had a short hike up to a waterfall and swimming hole– it was so beautiful being back in the jungle, it felt like we were in a movie!  A brief raft ride later, we were at our site for the evening. The “campsite” was stunning, with multiple two-person bungalows with Spanish roofs overlooking the Pacuare. There was a portico for dining, reading, cooking, and just hanging out that stood on the edge of the hill. Tess, Meredith, Vaden, Margaret, Kelly Clare, and Emily relaxed there and played cards. Ashley, Sarah, and Helen took naps, as the boys took a hike to see another incredible waterfall nearby. Afterwards, everyone gathered for hors d’oeuvres, and then a tasty dinner of chicken, vegetables, and rice, courtesy of our guides. After a fun Moonup led by LODs Kelly Clare and Margaret, we turned in early to prepare for our full morning of rafting in the morning.

After an early morning wake up and a very well received breakfast of pancakes, we were off!! The rapids came early but we were prepared to take the Class 3 rapids with ease. A while into our morning, we took a well-deserved break and hiked a short ways up to another waterfall and swimming hole. After we’d had our fill of the cool water, we headed back into the river to take on our first Class 4 rapid.  Although we were all a little nervous, we quickly discovered how fun the bigger rapids are- and we are happy to report that we made it out safely, smiling and with no swimmers!  We continued to tackle a combination of 3s and 4s, and eventually came upon a narrow canyon where we could swim. The sun was shining through the canyon branches into the water and provided an unforgettable setting. On the left were multiple waterfalls that, our guides revealed, showered down some of the cleanest water one can find. After a few minutes of swimming, we climbed back in our rafts for the final stretch of our trek. On Steve’s boat, Margaret, Jack, Emily, and Helen each took turns riding down small rapids rodeo-style on the front of the boat. After a fun-filled trip down the Pacuare, we were sad that our final adventure had come to an end but we were so happy to see our driver and friend, Michael, standing at the end of the river waiting for us to get back.

We are now headed back to Alajuela for our final evening together.  Although we are so sad to see our group leave us tomorrow, we couldn’t have asked for a better two weeks. Until tomorrow, we will be soaking up our last minutes and laughs together in beautiful Costa Rica.

Pura Vida!

Tess, Alex and Ranny

Hola from the Uvita!

June 23, 2016

Hola again!

We are writing from sunny and hot Uvita!!

Yesterday, we had an easy drive down from the mountains to the beach. On the way, we ran into fellow Moondancers, the Belize/ Costa Rica crew! It was a nice surprise that we ran into another group at a bathroom stop and we all got a few minutes to recap our adventures and we all got excited for way lies ahead.  Once back on the road, we stopped in the beach town Dominical and had a taco lunch break before driving the short distance to Uvita. Once in Uvita, we stopped and dropped off our laundry! None of us could be more excited knowing that we had clean clothes coming our way. Once at the hotel, Vaden, Emily, Kelly Clare, Meredith and Margaret jumped right into the pool. Ashley, Helen, Jack, Will D. and Will R. Sarah opted to play an epic game of spades. A little while after, it started raining and Tess, Alex and Ranny threw on their swimsuits and led the group into the pool— because it’s always more fun to swim in the rain!!! We spent the next hour playing sharks and minnows and celebrity before we put clothes back on and had our first dinner at the hotel. Luckily, the hotel had the T.V.’s turned to the Copa Americano! We loved watching the soccer game even though team USA lost 🙁 After our first MoonUp in Uvita, we turned in for the night and fell asleep to the relaxing sound of rain on the rooftop.

The next morning, LOD’s Will R. and Helen woke the crew up (to sun!) before we headed to a local beach for the morning. Although the waves were a little too rough to swim in, it was still so fun to finally be by the ocean and soaking up the rays. After games of hacky sack and a few long walks on the beach we headed to go stand up paddle board. We met our guides, Diego, David and Jose, next to a bank of mangrove trees. We paddled through the mangroves and it wasn’t long before we spotted our first bit of wildlife- a boa constrictor! Luckily, he hung out in the trees far from us. During our tour, we paddled Costa Rica’s biggest river, the Terraba River. It was wide in most parts that we paddled through, giving us the opportunity to paddle next to our friends. After a very relaxing and beautiful few hours on the water (and after many crab sightings and several falcons), we headed into downtown Uvita for arguably the groups favorite activity- ICE CREAM!!!!! Then it was back to the hotel for more swimming, dinner and another great Moon Up.

Our MoonUp quote tonight was “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” This has really resonated with our group and we are enjoying the time spent together in paradise. Although we all know that we will return back to our normal lives, we are living in the moment and valuing or time together.  We are having so much fun in Costa Rica and couldn’t enjoy this group more. We’re all so impressed with the enthusiasm for and especially how well this group gets along.  We love our little Moondance family 🙂

Until next time, pura vida and lots of love.

Tess, Alex and Ranny


Will Rosen: having fun in CR and on our way to surf! Can’t wait til I see you!

Meredith: hey fam! It’s me mere! I’m having a fun time here! I love you all!

Jack: hey guys! Hope y’all are having fun in Italy/ Ireland/ Alaska. Costa Rica is a blast. Love and miss y’all.

Ashley: hey y’all! I’m having so much fun! I love and miss y’all so much ❤️ ash

Sarah: hey em and chuck ❤️ miss you guys but I’ve really loved Costa Rica so far. We finished community service and now at the beach. Love you guys and hope you’re doing well!

Helen: hi mom and dad! Costa Rica is so fun! I can’t wait to tell you all about it! We are on the way to the beach now. Miss and love you!

Will D.: hey family, I’m having a great time on Costa Rica, I hope you guys are enjoying your time with Kittie and Pa. Dad, hope you had a great Father’s Day! Miss and love you all.

Margaret: hey guys! Costa Rica is great so far! Happy late Father’s Day, dad! And happy birthday mom! Love and miss y’all and see you soon!

Kelly Clare: hey mom and dad, Costa Rica is good so far. Happy late fathers day dad! Miss y’all and see you soon! Love you guys!

Vaden: hey friends and family, love and miss y’all!

Adventures in Alajuela and Buenaventura!

June 22, 2016

June 22, 2016
Hola! Greetings from Costa Rica!!!

We’re currently lounging by the pool in Uvita about to begin the second leg of our trip tomorrow! For now we’ll recap our first few days in Alajuela and Buenaventura.

On day one, the kids all arrived in San Jose. Ashley was the first to arrive – all smiles as she came off of her flight!
After everyone had trickled in, we ventured into Alajuela, a nearby barrio, where we had lunch and took a quick tour of the town. Will R. led the pack as we toured the Costa Rican Memorial Museum. After a delicious dinner in town, we held our first Moonup of the trip. The next morning, we set out for Buenaventura, driving in and out the clouds through the mountainous Costa Rican countryside. After transferring to 4×4 taxis to conquer the terrain, we entered the rainforest where we would spend the next few days. Upon arrival at Buenaventura, we met our awesome host, Harlow, who helped us settle in. Harlow is a San Franciscan turned Costa Rican who runs an amazing Eco-lodge on the edge of the jungle. He is incredibly knowledgeable about Costa Rica, our new home, and really has helped us to understand our surroundings.

We arrived just in time for lunch, which would mark the first of many incredible meals at Tres Semillas (Three Seeds). The restaurant is part of a vast organic farm on Harlow’s property, run by his sister, Tamara. After our classic stir fry meal, we took a tour of Tamara’s farm. We all took tastes of fresh cacao, papaya, coconut, passion fruit, herbs, and sugar cane. Unbeknownst, some of us took a small taste of the Pica pepper. Just one seed lights your mouth on fire. Margaret, our ever adventurous eater, spent the next 15 minutes washing away the pain with coconut juice. After the tour, we juiced some sugar cane (who knew pure sugar juice was that good?!!!) before walking back to our cabins to get ready for dinner. After another amazing Three Seeds meal we headed back home to our cabins for a long sleep before we began our first day of community service.
Early on Thursday morning, we hiked up to El Brujo, a community close to Buenaventura. Once at the community center, Randall (our local helper) helped explain our project. El Brujo has been selected to host a regional soccer tournament in the coming weeks so we helped the community prepare for the fans. Tess, Sarah, Kelly Clare and Emily were all selected to paint the kitchen. Alex, Meredith, Ashley and Jack all painted the bathrooms and Ranny, Will R., Will D., Margaret and Helen helped plant trees. After a few hours of productive work, we headed back towards glorious Three Seeds where we had another amazing lunch followed by a chocolate making lesson (!!!!!!!!). We all had the opportunity to roast, peel and grind cacao seeds before we happily mixed the ground cocoa into delicious brownies. Tamara also surprised us with the best hot chocolate the group had ever tasted. Afterwards, we devoured homemade lasagna and finally enjoyed the brownies we made from scratch. We spent the following morning continuing to work on the El Brujo community center. That afternoon, the group headed back to Three Seeds where we made delicious traditional Papusas which we devoured come dinner time.
The next day, we finished all of our projects and celebrated with an exciting game of soccer inside the community center’s gym! Salvador and Mary Alba (Tamara’s children) selected the teams, but in the end, the two teams tied! We then fueled up with lunch at Three Seeds and set off for an afternoon hike up the mountain nearby, where Vaden and Margaret led the pack as we cruised up to Harlow’s campsite. That night, we sat by the fire and enjoyed a beautiful view of a full moon over the mountains. Then, Harlow and his friend Jay surprised the group with s’mores!!! Helen pounced on roasting the marshmallows, teaching us a fool-proof method to perfectly toast ones mallow before sandwiching it in graham crackers. We had an early night after our long day and all the girls snuggled into their own tent, as did the boys.
The next morning, the group awoke and took a short hike to a beautiful nearby waterfall. Just up river of the clay is a deposit of mineral-rich blue clay, which Harlow had collected for us. As we hung out by the waterfall, we lathered up in blue clay, soaking in all the minerals. Sarah and Meredith took turns drawing designs on each other while Margaret, Vaden, Emily, and Kelly Claire composed works of art. After the clay dried we rubbed it all off, our skin now fresh, smooth and rejuvenated. This made the hike back down the mountain pretty easy. We were welcomed at Tamara’s with another great meal of empanadas. In the afternoon, Alex, Will R., Jack, Will D. and Sammy faced off against Ranny, Kelly Claire, Meredith and Salvador in a competitive game of soccer at the farm. Sammy often retrieved the ball from a swarm of players before Kelly Claire scored the winning goal. That night we enjoyed our last dinner in Buenaventura, Tamara’s incredible homemade pizza. The best truly was saved for last.
After dinner everyone made their mark at Buenaventura by painting their hand on the traditional Moondance wall, adding to the many students who have made an impact on this awesome Costa Rican community. We said our goodbyes to Sammy, Salvador and Mary Alba and then headed back for our last Moonup. We reflected on our time in Buenaventura, and how everyone can take this experience home with them. This morning we enjoyed a final breakfast, said our farewells to Tamara and Gerardo, packed our bags, and set off to Uvita.

Here we are now! More to come later…

Alex, Tess & Ranny