July 16, 2017
Well that flew by fast! It seems like just yesterday we were taking off on our wild boat ride in Belize. We’ve done so much since then! Everything from swimming with sharks to zip lining with sloths. We’re going to miss the long bus rides, fresh food at Buenaventura, and eating peppers that almost set us on fire, but above all we’re going to miss the constant energy this group brought to the table. Whether it was waking up early to do community service or whitewater raft in the pouring rain, this group was always laughing and staying positive. 15 people may seem like a lot to get through the airport and all sorts of situations, but this group of global citizens really made it a breeze.
Whitewater rafting was quite the blast. Our raft guide, Steve aka “El Gringo Loco”, was a person with many stories to tell on our way down the River. From fighting bulls to living with the indigenous, Steve has done everything there is to do in Costa Rica and was a great resource for all of us. After jumping into a rapid and breathing under a waterfall, we made our way to the campsite for the night. The beautiful cabins overlooking the water made for a fun afternoon full of cards, football, and even some summer reading!!
After a great breakfast that filled the group with energy, we made our way down the river through some class three and class four rapids. Everyone was entertained by smacking their paddles on to the water to see who could make the loudest noise. We floated through a gorge that is one of the most incredible views of the trip.
Making our way to the adventure inn one more time, everyone jammed out to great music showing off their impressive dance moves. Our banquet dinner was full of memories and laughs. We finished off the trip with a feast of ice cream and a great moonup that left everyone wishing we had two more weeks. This group will always have a special place in our hearts, and we will miss them so much!
Things were going to miss most:
Alina’s Cali vibe keeping everyone calm and cool
Anne’s beautiful voice singing to Beyoncé
We are “furreal” going to miss Braeden’s fast reading skills and his extreme poker face
Sophie and Dallas’s 4 hour split card game
Dallas’s hyena like laugh and incredible manners at the dinner table
Jack B. having flexing competitions with sharks and any animals he saw
Jack N.’s hypeness on bus rides and his vlogs for a Coca Cola ad
Kai’s mallard duck impersonations and his hip hop dance moves
Katherine’s positive energy and insane fear of sharks
Sarah and Kai becoming the best of friends
Lilly’s inability to drink water from a nalgene
Mary Howard’s new dj dance moves, knowledge on Foosackley’s Chicken, and always wanting to sing us Sweet Home Alabama
May’s sweet volleyball skills and her ability to act as an older sister for Jack and Kai
Kylie asking everyone to borrow some of their “pounds”
Whata guan boi?? -Fulton as he fell down the stairs
July 9, 2017
Hello again friends and family, we are currently on our way out of the Costa Rican rainforest and what an amazing few days it has been. For our readers out there grab a cup of coffee, a snack and a comfortable chair because this is going to be a long one.
After leaving Uvita we all boarded our van to make the two hour drive through the mountains into the rainforest. The views were incredible, surrounded by mountains we drove into a valley and stopped at our lodge that sits right next to a powerful running river. After dropping our bags off we quickly made our way to El Brujo, the community in which we would spend the next few days completing the service section of our trip.
El Brujo is very much in the jungle, the closest grocery store is an hour and a half drive away. After a quick introduction with the locals it was time to grab the shovels, grab the wheelbarrows and get to work. Part of our task was to create bags of sand for cement mixing and take them to the construction zone where everyone was helping build a home. This house belonged to a local named Marta, she is the mother of twelve who just recently lost her husband to cancer, therefore this work was very meaningful to Marta and her family.
Braeden led the charge as he filled bags full of sand, he enjoyed making them just a little too heavy, but was quick to lend a hand if someone actually struggled carrying the sand back. May was our oxe, she was a nonstop workhorse and kept going until us leaders forced her to sit down and drink some water. On the other side of the bridge Katherine and Fulton were playing with some of the local children. Although there was a language barrier, the laughter and smiles coming from the kids was a great sign that a good time was being had by all. Fulton has a way of making everyone around him laugh, his sense of humor is extremely contagious. Katherine’s inviting personality was much appreciated by the children as she soon had a circle of kids around her.
After a few hours of work we started a soccer game on the community field. Sophie, Our future soccer star was all over the field and proved her dominance goal after goal. Kylie also surprised everyone with her foot skills, she had mentioned that she plays ice hockey at home but never said anything about soccer. Finally she admitted “oh yeah, I play soccer as well” she’s a beast on and off the field. After a great afternoon filled with sweat, laughter, and smiles we all made the three mile walk from El Brujo.
Mary Howard saw this as a great opportunity to get some training time for the upcoming track season. Mary Howard led a few others in a run home but by the time she reached the end no one else was in sight. Dallas also ran home. He got so excited that he sprinted right past the house and kept going, eventually he turned around and had a great laugh about getting a little extra distance in his run. Once everyone made their way back to the lodge and showered it was time to head over to Tamara’s for dinner.
A quick paragraph about Tamara. Tamara owns a local restaurant named Three Seeds, this restaurant is named after her three children. She also owns and operates a farm full of fresh vegetable and fruits, you name it, she farms it. All the food we ate for our entire time spent in the rainforest came from Tamara’s farm. I apologize to the parents who cook at home because it is very hard. It is safe to say the kids were very pleased with this section of the trip. Especially Jack B, who would already be ready to go for seconds as some just began, that young man can eat!
The next morning was spent in El Brujo doing similar work as the previous day. Our kids earned their service hours on this day. Lily was extremely helpful in consolidating the bags of sand so that we could load even more, she definitely got her workout in completing this task. Kai was part of a team working on a different task, one that required the most effort out of any. He led the charge of moving a large pile of cinder blocks, but when I say a large pile of blocks I mean a dauntingly large pile of blocks. He took this task in stride and did an awesome job.
We also have fun when we’re at work. There are many jokes being thrown around, lots of laughter and everyone has a huge smile the whole time. Alina is our soulful child, she is always singing a tune she knows or dancing to a beat in the background, Alina really kept the groups energy up so that we could be as helpful as possible.
Our afternoon activity was spent getting a tour of Tamara’s farm and trying all sorts of fruits and vegetables. During a part of the tour we were able to try one of the hottest peppers anyone had ever eaten. Anne said she loved hot stuff so took a big bite out of the pepper and walked away as if nothing happened. We soon learned that this was the sweet pepper, not the hot one so she cheerfully went for round two. However this time went differently, Anne’s eyes opened wide and began to water, then jumped up and down searching frantically for water. The heat did not subside for another twenty minutes, but it’s safe to say the pepper won that battle.
Sarah watched this happen and at first did not want to try a pepper. Shockingly, a few minutes later she opted to try one and had a very similar reaction. After talking with Sarah about knowingly making that decision she said she would do it all over again and was happy with the experience. Nevertheless, the pepper won again. Everyone was extremely tired from a long day so we had a delicious dinner, quick Moonup and were off to bed, for tomorrow would bring the transformation of humans into avatars!
The next morning we filled our stomachs with eggs, hash browns, toast, and a smoothie to nourish us for our steep hike up to the waterfall. Upon reaching our destination everyone was hot, sweaty and ready for a dip in the cold pool that had naturally formed from the rushing water off the rocks. Then it happened, our guide Harlow pulled out his bag of blue clay that we covered our bodies with until everyone in the group was entirely blue. After which, orange designs were painted on our faces from a different form of clay, we all looked and felt like avatar warriors, a quick photo shoot ensued. After washing the clay off, our skin felt the softest and it ever had and our bodies were glowing. Our hike back to Tamara’s was filled with laughter and memories from our trip.
That night Jack N. led our group in our deepest most meaningful Moonups yet. Jack N. started off with a great quote, followed by a question that brought about though provoking responses. Our group felt as close as a family by this point in the trip. We were all very sad to say bye to new friends made, we have a new appreciation and respect for the rainforest but we are all extremely excited for the next part of our trip, bring on the whitewater!
July 7, 2017
Hello friends & family!
Although sad to leave Belize, the excitement in the air was palpable as the group made our way to Costa Rica. We waved goodbye to our dive instructors, and the boat ride back was a great time to play some games. We’re all going to miss Emanuel or “Jesus” as the kids called him. Our LODs, Kai and Kylie, really helped keep the leaders organized and maneuver all 18 of us through three airports. We were very impressed by the positive attitudes all the kids maintained despite the early morning.
There kids were fired up as we made our way into our first Costa Rican abode. With its hot showers, pool, and amazing food everyone was excited for a good night sleep. Jack N showed his excitement by belly flopping into the pool. His smack was heard by the entire hotel and followed by the laughter of the entire group. Since it was 4th of July, everyone wore their red, white, and blue necklaces. Alina and Jack B were especially patriotic. Jack B added to this patriotism with his abundance of bandanas and Alina with her American flag swim suit. After a dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans, the group had an awesome Moonup thanks to Dallas’s inspirational, thought provoking questions and headed to bed excited about the adventures to come.
With an early morning wake up call, everyone headed downstairs to a breakfast full of fruit many people had never seen. Fulton made it his mission to try all of them and though he liked most some were met with a sour face and a napkin. Our driver and new Costa Rican tour guide, Edwardo, then drove us to our zip-lining spot. On the way, we stopped at an amazing gift shop and restaurant. Mary Howard got a pair of cool pants that she has been reluctant to take off ever since. The early hour of the morning didn’t stop Kai from getting a milkshake that had him wound up for the rest of the car ride. May taught everyone sharing is caring by offering all her food anyone who wanted a snack.
We began zip lining, and we had a blast flying through the air above the tree line of Costa Rica. There were two lines on which we could go upside down. Although she screamed loud enough for the whole forest to hear, Sarah got some awesome GoPro footage she is excited to share. The final line is a mile-long race. Anne and Katherine decided to go head to head. The group had their bets on Katherine, betting a milkshake she would win but at the last second Anne came out on top incredibly excited about her treat to come. Braeden thought he could take down his leader Noah, but after lots of smack talk, he lost in a land slide and may never live it down.
Our next stop was the beautiful beach where we met our surf instructors ready to shred the gnar. As we hit the waves, Sophie blew us away with her surfing abilities. The group paddled hard past the white water and could catch some waves all the way into shore. Lily never tires, completing an ab workout post surfing. After an incredibly long day, with our bellies full, we hit the hay excited about heading to Buenaventura the next morning!
Jack N- thank you so much to you mom and dad for the opportunity to be on this trip. I hope all is well for my brother, and I hope my dogs are having fun!
Kai- I’m having a lot of fun, thank you very much. I hope my brothers are having fun! I miss everybody.
Katherine- I’m having so much fun!!!!! I miss you all and can’t wait to see you. Thank you!!
Jack B- hope mom is feeling better! See y’all soon, miss you!
Braeden- Enjoy being the person catching the most fish for these 2 weeks mom and dad. Miss ya and love you!
Fulton- I hope you guys are doing well in Greensboro I’m having so much fun!
May- Scuba diving was awesome! Costa Rica is beautiful, can’t wait to see y’all!
Sarah- I’m having fun can’t wait to see y’all!
Alina- Hey Mom. To my sister, don’t go stealing my clothes. To Ariana the same thing. I love y’all!
Anne- To rose I miss you and I hope the rooms clean by the time I get home. Don’t take any of my shirts. Tell hogan I say hi. Love you family!
Mary Howard- Hey family! Love and miss y’all, this place is awesome.
Sophie- Hey mom and dad hope you’re having fun at the lake. Costa Rica is awesome!!
Kylie- Moondance is really fun! We are doing a lot, helping a lot of people, and having so much fun! I miss you mom and dad
Lilly- I miss you. I’m not sunburnt. I’m having fun, and I love you!
Dallas- I’m having so much fun, and I still miss y’all. We’re going to speedway when I get back!
July 5, 2017
These first few days have been UNBELIZEABLE. We’ve seen countless sharks, caught a plethora of fish, and have all become PADI Open Water Certified!! Our home on Long Caye has been filled with laughs, homemade Belize style cinnamon buns and plenty of time spent underwater.
After everyone arrived at the airport we grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed to the dock so that we could board our boat and make our way 47 miles off the coast. This was no voyage for the weak, we experienced a couple big swells and by the time our boat arrived at Long Caye we all looked as if we had jumped into a swimming pool. We got to bed early that first night – the next morning would be an early one, and one with plenty of sunshine.
A few of our student came with their PADI certification so they were able to pursue their Advanced Open Water cert. Jack N. along with his cousin Kai were two of these students and, boy, were they a team underwater. Every time I looked back to see what they were up to they were fighting over something or pointing out a cool fish for everyone to look at. Kylie was also one of the Advanced Open Water students and she saw the first shark underwater and was quick to point it out for the rest of the group. As for the rest of us, we were beginning our first class on a nice sandbar in the middle of the ocean.
Our group has a great cast of characters. One of which, Fulton, our huge Carolina fan, makes sure to wear a Carolina piece of clothing every day. He also keeps the group laughing with his endless jokes. Dallas is a great comedic support due to his extremely contagious laugh; it has become a group favorite to hear Dallas laugh. Braeden, who towers over all of us leaders, has a sense of sarcasm that keeps everyone on their toes. These are just a few of our many amazing students.
Day two in Belize was filled with some real Scuba diving. As part of our certification everyone had to back roll off of the boat into the water, this had our group extremely anxious. When Anne heard her name she had to breathe very deeply, after which, she successfully completed the back roll. We were so proud of her! The group was also nervous about the possibility of seeing a shark up close. So much so that when Katherine thought she saw a shark underwater, she firmly squeezed one of one of the guides hands so hard until she realized, it was just a fish.
On one of the mornings before diving Jack B. and May woke early to get a beach workout full of planks, burpees and jump squats. They are both making sure to stay in shape for their athletics when they return, their coaches would be proud. We practiced a lot of our skills during our afternoon dive as the soon to be dive experts took their masks off underwater, and showed off their buoyancy skills. After diving that day, Mary Howard, who has consistently talked, dreamed and imagined herself drinking a Coca Cola learned about the possibility of buying one on the island and her heart jumped with joy. Five minutes later all the students were drinking a soda in what should be the next Coca Cola commercial.
During meal time our leaders of the day (two students chosen each day to set the example and help out with kitchen tasks, hydration tasks and anything else needed during that day) selflessly set the table for our group of eighteen, filled waters and passed out the food, they were a huge help to our chef Marta. However, one of our students, Alina, really stood out during her time as LOD. She was working so hard to make sure everyone was comfortable that we had to force her to sit down and eat her meal.
In between dives we would play camp games such as big booty, look up look down and birdy on a perch to name a few. We also spent a good amount of time drinking water and staying hydrated. Lily is new to the nalgene and showed her rookie status by not being able to take a sip without spilling half the bottle on herself. But don’t worry folks, Lily is getting better and will be a professional Nalgene user by the end of the trip.
Our final days in Belize were spent diving some of the most amazing spots this country has to offer. Sarah got her wish on one of our last dives as our group got to see around seven sharks in just one session! We also got to spend an afternoon fishing. Together as a group we caught around thirty fish in the span of two hours, they were biting like crazy. Sophie was our big fish champ, out of nowhere she felt a huge tug and thought she was caught on rock. Little did she know Sophie had just hooked a huge trigger fish and fought like a champion to get it on board.
We are incredibly sad to leave our little slice of heaven, but looking forward to the adventures to come in Costa Rica. The kids cannot wait to jump on a surf board, hit the sky on a zip line and help out the community of El Brujo. Happy Fourth of July everyone! We are celebrating big here in Belize.
June 29, 2017
Hi Belize + Costa Rica Families!
We’ve heard from the leaders and everyone’s arrived safely in Belize City! We are so excited for the two-week adventure ahead!
-The Moondance Team