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Fiji : 2A • July 1-July 17, 2016

Bula, and Movè (hello and goodbye)

July 16, 2016

Bula, and movè (hello and goodbye)

We have spent the final three days surfing it up at the Fiji beach house or as we call it the Fiji beach mansion (FBM) for short. This tropical Paradise is a 18 acre coconut plantation that doubles as a hostel is jam packed with endless activities. It is stocked with a fully functioning yoga studio, pool, pool table, ping pong table, massage room, kayaks, snorkeling, surfing, paddle boards , horseback riding , volleyball court, waterfall hike , and a perfect sunset every night. Our students utilized only a few of the more kush activities. Morgan played beach volley ball and mostly bought snacks but shared her food with everyone more by weight than anyone else. Olivia went horseback riding and swam with the dogs by the pool and the ocean. Seamus played beach volleyball, was leader of the day and decided that we would do moon up at the beach but inside the inner tidal zone by the shore so we could watch the water come in and out during moon up. Madeline got a massage played beach volleyball and then played with a dog named Linus and he had eye brows. Grace Williams went horseback riding on the beach at sunset and said it was magic. She also was our most improved surfer making us all look bad by pulling a switch foot. Heath went horseback riding in a long zip off pants a bucket hat and a crazy shirt the only time he wore them on the entire trip. He led his team to victory in beach volley ball by being a savage. Lizzie went horseback riding, got a massage and played beach volleyball but afterword she was so exhausted she took a nap in hammock. She also says that she’s now becoming a surf bum in California. Trip road horses into the sunset and said he’s never felt so majestic he was leader of the day with Seamus and they lead with an interesting question what would you find washed up on the beach if it could be anything. Grace m road horses and low key is the funniest person on our trip. She made up a joke “why did the horse run away…. Because he was unstable”

Marshall has 13 rules that he lives by while on a MOONDANCE trip and asked the group to add a rule to the list. Morgan – singa da linga (means no worries)

Madeline – apparently smile at old people

Olivia – Dad’s here no rules

Heath – Food is fuel

Lizzie – Stop and smell the roses

Grace M -Gear up

Trip – kick butt and take names

Grace W. – run never jog

Izzy – Spring Break no rules! pizza for breakfast

Seamus – Wear sunscreen

The dance party is a constant source of entertainment on a MOONDANCE trip. Even though it’s not a rule that you have to dance, you immediately lose the dance off if you don’t participate. The dance offs occurred on the first day on the catamaran. On the scuba boat frequently to pitch perfect songs. On the boat after surfing we were doing flips and pull-ups and on the volley ball court and got sandy from rolling on the ground. We also danced with the community every night. To be honest there was mostly dancing with some activities thrown in.

Last night’s moon up was the quintessential moonup of a MOONDANCE trip. We played games we told stories and shared quotes and most importantly we told each other how much we all appreciated each other. The quotes were by John Steinbeck “it’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shown.” The other quote was by Dr. Suess “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Despite the advice we are all leaving with heavy hearts.  The light of this trip will stay with us hopefully for years to come.

Here are some shout outs from the kids.

Morgan- hey guys! Fiji is amazing! Can’t wait to see y’all and get Chick-fil-A.

Oliva: Hey fam, can’t wait to tell y’all all the amazing stories I had in Fiji, miss and love everyone see y’all soon!

Seamus-u da bomb, mom

Madeline- Hey mom and friends! I am having so much fun in Fiji!  I love and miss you all. Bye buddies:)

Grace W- I miss you guys SO much. I’ve had the best time…so fun. Looking forward to giving y’all big hugs in the airport:) love y’all so much! Ps I lost my retainer

Heath – hey fam I can’t wait to get back to tell you guys about Fiji. Miss you guys and see ya soon love ya

Lizzie – Hey mommy John Rino and Steph I love y’all so much, can’t wait to tell y’all how awesome this trip has been.

Trip – hey Walt, SG, Rach, I’m coming home! Can’t wait to see y’all, and really craving crab dip, for the record

Grace m- hey mom and dad. I’m having lots of fun. Love you and see you soon.

Rafting & fun in the village!

July 13, 2016


After the amazing time we all had scuba diving we knew that the next activity had to be incredible to top it, and I think it did!

We started the next portion of our trip by heading to the Upper Navua River, where we met our rafting guides who would be taking us to the village for our four-day homestay. We were split up into two boats. In Izzy’s boat were Lizzie, Olivia, Seamus, and Grace M. In Marshall’s boat were Morgan, Grace W. Trip, Heath and Madeline. As we paddle down the river, we were all in awe of the scenery surrounding us. The ancient volcanic rock paved a path for the river that showed thousands of years of geological history. The river cuts back and forth, meandering between canyons and waterfalls every few turns – it is truly a sight to see. We established our new home in the Fijian village of Waindro. The kids from the village, Marco and Mateo Mala, ran up and hugged us, making us feel right at home. That night, the opening ceremony brought us even closer as we all took turns speaking about our time in the village. We all said how thankful we were that they opened home to us and took us in like family. Then, we had a dance party, and Grace W. taught Seamus how to swing dance. Madeline and Olivia showed the villagers a thing or two and got everyone up dancing!

Our second day in the village was very relaxed. Sundays are taken very seriously as a day of rest in Fiji. We took advantage of our opportunity and slept in, which was much needed after our adventurous day the day before. After a breakfast of fruit, granola and toast, we joined the community at their church service led by the village priest. Although the service was in Fijian, we were all able to enjoy the harmonies of the hymns and appreciate them for their mystery.  Lizzie and Madeline really enjoyed the service and said it was one of the most impactful services they had been to.

The following day, Morgan, Seamus and Grace Williams showed great work ethic by paving and tiling the entire wardrobe changing room with the help of two of the community members. While the rest of the group was painting the church where we just attended the service, Grace M. and Lizzie covered the church (and each other) with paint. It is now bright blue, beautifully accented with white posts. As we completed our service project, the kids came back from school, and we all were able to play with them and get to know them more around the village. One girl was especially fond of Grace M., who later helped with her homework back at her house. The youngest son of the village, Sette, fell asleep on Trip’s head when he put him on his shoulders, and it melted all of our hearts!

The most fun we had with the children of the village was when we got to visit them at school. The school they attend also has students from another nearby village, so there are a total of about 80 students currently in attendance. We started with a tour of the school grounds, led by the principal, and then we were introduced to all the kids – who welcomed us with a song they had practiced both in Fijian and English! The rest of our time at the school was spent running around with the kids, and it was such a blast!! Seamus began playing rugby with them only to find out (unlike in the village) it was tackle rugby, and we were honestly more worried about him than any of the kids, so he bowed out quickly. It was such a fun day, and it was a perfect way to end our time in the village.

For our final night, the whole village community had a going away ceremony for us. There was amazing food and great music. We all went around and thanked each other for the experiences we had shared the last four days, and it was heartbreaking to think about leaving this community that had welcomed us with such open arms and hearts.

This morning we said our hard, tear-filled goodbyes and began kayaking out to our next adventure. As we paddled down the river, we were in awe of the amazing place we are all so lucky to be in. We began to realize how we only have a few short days left together; however, our adventures are not over yet! We stopped by a giant waterfall, and Heath and Olivia were the first to jump in. What an incredible and invigorating experience it was, as we let the falls cascade over us.

For our last three days, we will be surfing at Fiji Beach House. We all can’t believe it’s almost over, but we are so excited for our last couple of days together!!

Marshall & Izzy

Bula Bula Bula!!

July 8, 2016

Bula Bula Bula!!

The past five days have been so amazing, none of us can believe how fast they flew or the fact that we are already half way through this trip. Although our days here are dwindling down, we’re all trying to be half glass full and focus on all the amazing things we still have to come.

Where to even begin? After our incredible first day in Fiji sailing around the islands we took a bus to Pacific Harbour where we would be sleeping and learning to scuba dive for the next five days. We began our certification training by suiting up in all of our gear and breathing underwater for the first time the small pool at our hostel. We practiced skills like assembling and breaking down our BCD’s and regulators and clearing our masks. Although it was pretty cold, as Morgan can attest better than anyone, we were all so excited by the idea of being able to test these new skills underwater.

Over the course of the last three weeks Izzy and Marshall have been here they have become regulars at a local Memphis inspired restaurant in Pacific Harbour called Baka Blues. They’ve gotten to know the owner so well she’s started giving them a 15% discount every time for coming so often. But really what keeps them coming is the live music and the opportunity to sing karaoke. So of course for our first night back in Pacific Harbour we went to this restaurant and were even lucky enough to be graced by Grace W’s amazing voice as she sang while Lizzie and Grace M taught us all how to swing dance. A few days later Seamus casually approached the stage and sang John Legend’s Imagine for us all. So many talented kids on this trip!

The next two days of diving were spent testing our skills in open water. The first day it was raining so the water was pretty choppy and the visibility wasn’t great but that only made what came the next day all the more awe inspiring. The dive masters took us to a nearby island that could not have been more out of national geographic. We were all temporarily speechless as we took in the lush green foliage waving in the wind and bright blue ocean waves crashing onto the white sandy beach. It could not have felt more Fiji and we soaked it all in as much as we could. We did two dives at this location and spent the rest of our afternoon dancing on top of the boat and jumping off into the water. It was a great day to say the least.

It was such a joy for Marshall and Izzy to watch all the students build confidence is their abilities as divers. While it came fast and naturally to some (shout out to Morgan who is a natural born diver according to one of the dive masters), there were a couple of kids who understandably took some adjusting to get comfortable. The one we are most proud of is Olivia, who admitted day two of the trip to having a fear of open water and that she had come on this trip hoping to overcome that fear. While it wasn’t always easy, she got in the water every day and continued to gain more and more confidence beneath the surface of the ocean. I’m

The second night the kiddos decided they wanted to go to a restaurant where they could try some typical Fijian food. There is a lot of Indian influence in Fiji so the traditional meal Trip, Morgan, Olivia, Madeline, and Grace M. ate was chicken curry, with roti, rice and dhal soup. They all loved it and both Izzy and Marshall were thrilled at their open mindedness.
After practicing skills in the pool and completing four dives in open water we were all officially certified and free to explore the aquatic world as open water divers. And we definitely took advantage. We went on four more dives after that where we swam with sharks, sea turtles and fish. We swam through swim throughs (makes sense) and explored underwater caves. Needless to say scuba diving has been an unreal experience for us all. One thing I know we’ll never forget was Olivia facing her fear of open water and the time Louis, our dive master, mistook her for Madeline. He held her hand the entire dive and continued to make sure she was okay, which would have been so helpful had he picked out the right girl. Regardless it may have been a good thing in the end as it pushed Olivia to swim on her own alongside the group and find joy in scuba diving.

Seamus and Hugh definitely take the cake for the most underwater footage, although nothing was more magical than watching Grace W. legitimately cry of happiness and swim meters below the group as she capture a sea turtle on her GoPro. Trip could be seen, hair puffed out and held back back a bright blue buff underwater, endlessly trying pop bubbles above us all.

Days in Pacific Harbour were spent scuba diving either in the morning right after an early breakfast or in the afternoon after lunch. This schedule gave us a lot of free time to continue getting to know each other and explore the surrounding area. Some highlights include endless games of headbands, look up look down and would you rathers. One afternoon as we were walking along the beach we found a coconut which led us to meet a Fijian man named Tomias, who gave us five more he had collected and helped us open them. Fresh coconuts in Fiji, you can’t make that up!

Now we’re heading to the river to begin our day rafting into the village that will be our home for the next four days and the kids could not be more excited.

HAPPY 4th and Bula To All!

July 4, 2016

HAPPY 4th and Bula to all!  That’s hello in Fijian. Our group arrived safely yesterday and in high spirits after the long flight. As we stepped off the plane a band played local Fijian music, it was a wonderful introduction to begin the trip. We got to listen to the music for a while as we waited on our final student, Trip, to arrive from Hong Kong. He has already had an interesting summer and was a master at the name game being able to name everyone in our group after the first round.

After snagging some grub we wasted no time and got started with our first activity. We spent the afternoon on a Catamaran sailboat, listening to music, snorkeling, playing games and jumping off the boat into the beautiful blue Pacific.  Heath especially looked to be in complete bliss.

As we snorkeled around a small island, taking in all the colorful coral and swimming with the fish, Seamus was able to use his new GoPro for the first time to capture it all! We even found a cave to swim through between the coral and Morgan was the first to fearlessly swim through it followed by Grace M. and Lizzie. One of the highlights of the day for Grace W., Madeline, Olivia and Izzy was when the captain of the boat let them steer as Marshall helped the crew raise the top mast. Who else can say they got to steer a catamaran in Fiji?!

After spending the day in the sun we played some games in Port Denarau and got to know each other some more while we waited to get hungry for dinner. We found a great restaurant at the port right on the water that gave us an incredible view of the sunset over the water. Such a wow moment!

We were surprised at the end of the night at the port with a performance of traditional Fijian dances. Grace W. and Izzy even got to join in and learn some moves.  When we got back to the hotel we had our first moon up where we shared our spirit animals and reasons for coming on the trip. All in all, great first day. Now here are some shout outs from the kiddos!

Lizzie – Hey mom I’m not dead yet, sup John I saw a fish. Bye love y’all

Grace M – hey mom and dad, don’t worry because I haven’t been near death yet. Love you

Grace W – hi parents! It’s amazing here:) I definitely miss my snorkel bud @dad. Love & miss yall both

Trip – Papa Walt, Rach, and SG: I survived a month in China! Fiji rocks, y’all would love it. Had my first meal without chopsticks last night, can’t wait for some more sun and sand. love you

Seamus- Fiji is awesome, send fireworks! 😉 Have fun in Michigan, tell the family to have fun too!

Madeline- Hello mommy!!! I am having so much fun and Fiji is amazing! I love you and can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Olivia- Hey mom and dad, made it to Fiji and it’s amazing!! I love it here and can’t wait to tell you all about it. Miss you and everyone back at home!!

Heath- Hey mom and dad, Fiji is really cool and fun and I can’t wait to tell you about it when I get home. Love you

Morgan – hey guys! Fiji is amazing, the plane ride was a little crazy but it was so worth it to make it here!! Love you guys so much and see you soon!