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Costa Rica Venture 2 • June 30-July 13, 2017

Final Update

July 13, 2017

Well, the day is here. It’s crazy to say it but everyone is safely on their way home and we couldn’t be prouder of what each of them have accomplished. The change from arrival day to departure day is like night and day. The awkwardness turns into uncontrollable tears and hugs that just don’t stop. We started this trip just 14 days ago with some strangers and then watched them all go through security as a family. 

We have all changed for the better and are only grateful for all the memories we’ve made and hardships we’ve endured. Each of these special human beings came out of their “shell” and showed their true wonderfully colorful personalities. It’s safe to say Jimmy, Julia, and Maddie had the time of their lives watching these girls have the confidence, strength, and compassion to help each other grow. 

Pearson never failed to lend a helping hand and we couldn’t be more grateful for her natural nurturing capabilities. Liza consistently made us laugh while she and Eloise had incredibly untouchable dance moves. They both encompassed showing your wild side and became natural spontaneous motivators along the way.

Soph has a big heart and was always thinking of others and sharing anything to help anyone have a great day. This admirable quality was a helpful motivator to enhance each day. Emma was quick to make decisions helping the group stay focused! Her natural ability to lead in that sense was inspirational. 

Chloe possessed a strong spirit and calming aura throughout every twist and turn. You could always look to her for a breath of fresh air and a refreshing laugh when need be. Similarly, Jes was the cool, calm, and collected one. She has quite the steady head on her shoulders and was always available for honest, deep conversations that left you thinking. 

Marcelle never let an unkind thought peep into her head. She was our ‘positive Polly’ and would often offer insightful, uplifting, and helpful words of wisdom at just the right time. And then there’s Maddy! Another chica who wears an infectious smile wherever she goes. Her ability to laugh in the face of any and all situations helped us remain in high spirits no matter the circumstance. 

Caitlin, a bundle of energy all day every day, was our constant source of entertainment. We could always count on her to make things fun and remind us of the importance of being your true self. Speaking of being yourself, Louise lived every day to the fullest in her own vibrant way. She was an innate leader with the unique ability to read a group and know exactly what everyone needed.

When you put all of these girls together, you form an incredible family that will not be soon forgotten. It is without a doubt that these girls impacted the lives of those in El Brujo village as well as our own in ways we never expected. Thank you for sharing your daughters with us and for allowing us to partake in an adventure of a lifetime with each and every one of them. We miss them all greatly but look forward to seeing how their growth is reflected in their everyday life at home. Pure vida and hasta luego! 

Surfing, SUP, Sloths, and a Great Hike

July 13, 2017

Phew! We’ve accomplished quite a bit over the past few days and we couldn’t have had more fun while doing so. After a long day of driving to Uvita, we awoke the next morning to a cloudless sky perfect for an early morning surfing lesson. Everyone was thrilled to be on the beach and took to the waves immediately. Liza and Louise impressed us all with their natural ability to shred the gnar. They both got up more times than we can count and even caught the same wave together! There must have been some good vibes going on because everyone was able to successfully surf the waves. We then waved goodbye to the waves and made our way to the mangroves.

The mangroves presented quite a challenge for all of us. We hopped on paddle boards and steered our way through a narrow opening in the trees. Not long after we started the adventure we battled off mosquitos, climbed over tree branches, and came face to face with crabs along the branches. In the end, it was a hilarious challenge we all overcame together with a few battle wounds (bug bites). Louise kept spirits high by laughing our way through every tough corner when someone would get stuck in the branches. She came out of the mangroves to the river and inspired us all to finish off strong with a refreshing jump in the open water. Chloe set a strong pace for crossing the river that got us all back safely.  We got back to the bus just in time when the thunder storm came. As we pulled away from the river, we saw four beautifully colored Macaws fly in front of our bus and completely take our breath away. Costa Rica never seizes to remind us how beautiful and wild this country is. 

The next morning was our attempt to sea kayak. Unfortunately, the waves were a bit too intense so we walked out to the tip of the whale’s tail. We watched the waves crash on the rocks and then everyone enjoyed snorkeling and boogie boarding on the beach. The view was incredible and was the best way to start our day before zip lining. Soph was busy finding cool shells and catching crabs as we strolled our way back for lunch from the beach. 

Lunch was interesting for everyone since we got to try the local dish of ceviche. Everyone was bold and adventurous with their taste buds which impressed Jimmy, Maddie and me. We quickly made our way back to the jungle for some ziplining. We were all extremely excited for this adventure. A pickup truck slowly pulled us up the mountain above the clouds as we looked down on the beach we were just relaxing on. We raced through the jungle laughing and waving as each of us were on different lines. We finally all met up before the middle line. The guides pointed out a sloth to us, and only a few were lucky enough to see it. Caitlyn (having a deep passionate love for sloths) was extremely irritated she missed the opportunity to see it. We encouraged her to believe her time would come and just keep zipping on. She geared up and was ready for the next zip as the guide pointed out that just on her right was a baby sloth looking at her only a few feet from the platform! All of us were ecstatic for the siting but Caitlyn broke out into happy sloth tears for this unforgettable moment. This put us in hysterics over her excitement and release of joyous emotions. We lingered to take pictures with our friend and then continue on.

The next section was a Tarzan bridge that was quite challenging to cross. Jes and Caitlin were tolerant of Maddie and Julia jokingly jumping and shaking the bridge. We all had a great laugh, and they made it across safely. We all then took turns on the Tarzan swing which swept over the jungles canopy and looked out into the ocean’s horizon. After ziplining we were treated with trits (a Costa Rican ice cream sandwich) which was the perfect pick-me-up after laughing out all of our energy. We finished this adventurous day up with Moonup on the beach. We watched the heat lighting in the distance as Maddy and Chloe led our nightly discussion. 

The next morning was our final morning of surfing. The weather was incredible. We woke up to the sun and enjoyed splashing in the waves for a few hours early that morning. Pearson got up for her first time, multiple times! This was such a rewarding moment to watch as leaders. Marcelle, and Maddy took on the waves like champs and were swimming like fish until we had to get out to dry off. Saying goodbye to the beach was hard but we were ready for the next challenge, the Diamantes Falls hike. 

We gathered our stuff and had a final dip in the pool. We jammed to music to pump ourselves up for the intense uphill we were about to endure. Everyone started the hike in high spirits. As soon as we reached the first flat spot, we saw another sloth! This was a sure sign of a good time ahead. We continued on as we saw toucans, beautiful flowers, and fresh fruit. We all ate guanabana and Costa Rican lemon. Emma conquered this hike with a positive spirit, and we were so proud that she did it (this was only her second hike ever, her first being a week earlier on the trip). Once we finally made it to our abode in a cave we stuffed our stomachs with a delicious lunch and then got right back on the trail! 

A few of the girls went head on into the rain to go swimming in some swimming holes at the top of the mountain. On the way up, the adventurous spirits were infectious as they all tried termites, even Eloise. The idea sounded crazy but we were informed they tasted like carrots and it turned out to be true. If you ever want to find out you’ll just have to go to Costa Rica to find out for yourself. 

The next morning, we started with a mini hike to the top of a 600-foot waterfall. The view was indescribable as we took it in. This prepped us for the last hike we had to the bottom. We were happy it was all downhill from here. On the way down, we even had one more sloth sighting! This had us all reflect on how lucky we have been to share all of these unforgettable moments together. The bus ride back to San Jose was filled with spontaneous fun stops as well. We saw crocodiles and a beautiful sunset. Each of us are feeling extremely reluctant to send everyone home since we had such a blast with each other. Every day has been filled with belly aching laughs and overcoming fears. 

Rafting Success

July 9, 2017

The trip is flying by but we couldn’t be more excited to be at the beach after two days of white water rafting! We conquered one of the top 5 rivers in the world and did so with ease.  

The night before we launched, Maddy and Soph led us in an incredible Moonup, a nightly tradition, in which we all got to know each other on a deeper level. It was truly inspiring to see everyone leave their comfort zones and form stronger bonds than they thought possible. It couldn’t have come at a better time as strong connections made for great teamwork on the river.

Our first morning on the river began with reviewing safety procedures, learning to navigate rapids, and hiking to waterfalls! Our first hike was a mere 10 strokes away from the shore which left everyone a bit skeptical. However, as soon as we jumped in the natural pool with a hidden waterfall cave, everyone transformed into a fish and swam nonstop. Louise has quite the adventurous soul and couldn’t stop jumping off rocks. She even helped us find a great rock to use for our belly flop competition! We then hopped back in our rafts and paddled downstream for a bit before landing at the infamous jumping rock. Everyone took a leap and swam across the river for a quick snack and lesson on LNT principles (Leave No Trace). In order to leave no trace, we learned to eat an apple from the bottom up — core and all! Emma fully embraced it and walked away amazed that she ate the whole core. We were quite impressed! 

After a few more rapids, we arrived at our take out spot for the afternoon. We made the hike up to our lodge and all the girls were in awe of how beautiful it was. Screened-in, open air cabins overlooked the river and jungle below. As the guides prepared a delicious lunch, Marcelle, Pearson, Liza, Julia and Maddie danced in the rain. They’ve truly learned to take advantage of every opportunity and embrace whatever comes their way with joy and positivity. By the time we were able to dry off, lunch was served and it was delicious! Everyone fueled up to prepare for the next hike to a big waterfall deep in the jungle! Upon arrival, Eloise led us in a game of Marco Polo and had everyone flopping around like fish in no time. The rest of the night was spent playing cards and enjoying one another’s company as we rested up for a big day of rafting. 

Our second day of rafting kept us all on our toes as we took on class 3 and 4 rapids. Caitlin tackled her fear of rafting early on by riding the bull (sitting on the front of the raft) like a wild woman. We all laughed and celebrated as we watched her face exude pure happiness. Along the way, we stopped for yet another waterfall hike. Costa Rica is filled with amazing waterfalls everywhere we turn! In typical CRV 2 fashion, we found another jumping rock perfect for bellyflops. Chloe, among others, dunked in the chilly water and boldly bellyflopped for our entertainment. Chloe continually embodies what it looks like to say ‘yes’ to adventure and live in the moment. After we got our fill at the waterfall, we continued to paddle down river. We passed through a beautiful canyon which left Jess in awe of Costa Rica’s beauty yet again. She has quite the knack for seeing art in all things and reminding the group of how fortunate we are to be in such a vibrant, diverse country. 

We ended our rafting journey with a ton of laughs and hilarious memories to reminisce on as we made the drive to Uvita. Today, we’re hitting the waves and we couldn’t be more excited that the sun is shining and beach mode is in full swing. Pura Vida!

Service Success

July 7, 2017

Hola y Bienvenidos a Costa Rica Venture!

It’s only been a week since we gathered the group in the San Jose airport and yet so many incredible things have already unraveled. Our first day together was spent getting acquainted to the Costa Rica culture and Pura Vida lifestyle while enjoying some quality time in the pool, playing cards, and eating Pizza Hut (our last taste of home before heading in to the rainforest). We then awoke to a buffet of exotic fruits such as guanabana, lychee, and pitaya, which everyone bravely ate before hopping on to the bus to make the drive to our first adventure —  community service in El Brujo village!

The bus ride was filled with Taylor Swift, trivia, and countless breathtaking views along the Pan American Highway. We found ourselves dancing quite often and even got street vendors to dance as we drove by which left us all in a fit of laughter. We then transitioned to open air taxis to make the descent in to the rainforest. We all sat in awe as we drove through thick clouds before arriving in the lush valley below. Harlow, our outfitter, quickly welcomed us to Buenaventura before shuttling us down to the village for a night of bingo with the locals! We were all incredibly grateful to have Harlow serve as our translator as the numbers were called out in Spanish. Emma was the only one lucky enough to shout ‘bingo’ and wow’d us all when she gave her prize away to a man from the village. 

The next morning, we awoke to a full day of excitement. We had our first meal at 3 Seeds, an organic farm and restaurant, where we enjoyed a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of gallo de pinto (beans and rice). With full bellies and joyful spirits, we then strapped on our shoes and began the 45 minute trek to the village for our first morning of service. Upon arrival we were introduced to a recently widowed mother of 10 who’s house we would be working on over the next three days. Our first task was to shovel rocks and break down a concrete patio. Ella quickly took the reins on beginning this task and impressed us all with her endless effort to help. We all put in a ton of hard work and gained some muscle by the time we finished. However, we still had energy to join the kids from the village in a game of soccer before heading back to 3 Seeds for a farm tour and chocolate making class. The farm tour set our tongues on fire as we all tried hot peppers and attempted to cool our lips with starfruit, coconut juice, and cucumbers all plucked fresh from the garden. It was quite the sight. 

After a rejuvenating night of sleep, we made our way back to the village to garden, scrub metal roofing panels, and move blocks. Pearson used her impressive knowledge of the Spanish language to help translate what needed to get done as well as create bonds with the local children. Liza and Soph both dedicated time tilling soil and planting lettuce sprouts in the families newly refurbished garden. The end result was beautiful and rather meaningful knowing their work will benefit and support the family for years to come. We then took to the field for another game of soccer. Marcelle showed off her soccer skills and used her Spanish to encourage the children on her team. It was then time to head back to Buenaventura to rinse off in the river. Louise was the first to jump in and the last to get out. We’re convinced she would have played in the river all day if we would have let her. But alas, we had to get out to learn how to cook papusas for dinner as part of our second cooking class. Caitlin took charge on grinding the corn and keeping us entertained as we sat around the kitchen table. The Salvadorian inspired meal was delicious, but nothing could quite compare to what was in store for the coming day. 

The next morning we awoke to Party in the USA in celebration of the 4th of July. As Leaders of the Day (LODs), Jess and Marcelle led us in a recitation of the pledge of allegiance during morning huddle before walking to the village one last time for our last afternoon of service. Everyone joined in to lift, carry, and wheelbarrow pounds upon pounds of sand from the river bank across a bridge to a truck. The sand was being used to create the floor of the kitchen in the house we were helping to expand. Maddy showed true strength and dedication throughout the morning and even volunteered to retrieve everyone’s water bottles from the house up the road during a break. As rain began to pour, we took shelter in the community center and played games with the children before distributing gifts. Though there was a language barrier between many students and the children, it was incredible to see the bonds that had formed over three days. As we waved goodbye and were saddened by the idea of leaving behind new friends and experiences, we were quickly overjoyed to arrive at 3 Seeds to hamburgers – a 4th of July must! We were all excited to be rekindled with American food and even broke in to song (the National Anthem, of course) when a 4th of July cake emerged for dessert. Shortly after, the rain began to pour again and we saw no better solution than to run outside and play soccer. Everyone was slipping and sliding everywhere as puddles pooled on the field. We all laughed way too hard and walked away with memories we won’t soon forget. We finished the night with a relaxing evening at the house playing cards, journaling, and learning more about each other. It was a well deserved night of rest after a day of hard work. 

Speaking of hard work, the next day we hiked up the mountain to two natural pools below a waterfall to cover ourselves in blue clay from head to toe. We all slowly transformed in to Avatars and embraced the experience to the fullest, especially Liza and Eloise. The two also embraced their inner artist as we left our mark on the walls at 3 Seeds with paint. Chloe painted our groups mural and helped our handprints to stand out amongst all the rest. She also encouraged everyone to partake in multiple games of ninja throughout the night keeping us all active and on our toes. 

Yesterday, we had to say goodbye to Harlow, Tamara, Salvador, Ocean, and Jennifer as we packed our bags and headed back up the mountain in the open air taxis. This time the views were incredible as the clouds had lifted! We were sad to say goodbye to our new friends but encouraged by their hospitality and constant care. We could not thank them enough for all they did for us throughout our stay. And now, after a day of bus games and hilarious conversations, we’re ready to take on the Pacuare River for two days of white water rafting! Hasta pronto!

Shout outs: 

Caitlin: Dear Mom, Dad, and Connor, I’m having such an amazing time! Don’t worry I have showered. I have met so many great people and made new friends! See y’all soon!! Love, nugs.

Chloe: Hi! I’ve been having so much fun here. The other girls are really nice and it’s super pretty! I miss you guys and can’t wait to see you. Love you!

Eloise: Hi Mom, Dad, Elijah, and Angus! You wouldn’t believe how much fun I’m having (so much fun, I barely have time to read) and how many new friends I’m making. Sending love from Costa Rica, xoxo El!

Emma: Mom, Dad, and Dylan I miss you so much. You wouldn’t believe how much I’ve grown. Thanks so much for letting me have this experience. Love you!!!

Jess: Hey Mom, Dad, and Daven! I love and miss you all so much but it’s okay because I am having so much fun while experiencing so many amazing things!!! I love y’all with all my heart! See you soon! 

Liza: Hi Mom, Dad, and Lily! I am having so much fun! It’s so different than Las Catilinas but in good ways. I love and miss y’all so so much. xoxo 

Louise: Hi Mom, Dad, Seth, Clance, Hen, Caroline, and Daph! I am having the best 2 weeks of my life! Couldn’t be happier! Miss sunsets and snuggles with y’all and can’t wait to see you guys!! Love you all beyond words! xoxo, Weez.

Maddy: Hey Mom, Dad, Zach, Tyson and Dogs! I am having a great time in Costa Rica and have done so many amazing things! Miss and love you all. Pet the dogs for me!

Marcelle: Hi Mom, Dad, Sadie, and soon Brenda!! Costa Rica is beautiful and rainy but I miss you all so much! Don’t have too much fun without me! Love you!

Pearson: Dear Mommy, Daddy, Piper, and Brady, I am having a BLAST in Costa Rica!! It is beautiful beyond words and the people are amazing. I miss you all and love you all so much! xo and see you soon!

Sophie: Hi Mommy, Daddy, Jamie, Pig, Symba, and Flume! It is absolutely gorgeous here. It is so great not having technology because I actually live in the moment. Thank you for letting me come and I can’t wait to see you guys!

Pura Vida!

July 1, 2017

Hi Costa Rica Families,

Everyone has safely arrived in San Jose and the group is ready to start the incredible journey ahead. Stay tuned for future updates!

-The Moondance Team


  • Emma
  • Marcelle
  • Caitlin
  • Chloe
  • Eloise
  • Pearson
  • Jes
  • Maddy
  • Louise
  • Soph
  • Liza