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Ecuador + Galapagos 2A • June 29-July 12, 2017


July 12, 2017

Hello friends, family, and Moondancers! I hope everyone arrived home safely. Jewlz and I woke up this morning confused as to where everyone went! We’re so used to having 14 friends waking up with us and starting off our day with a morning huddle!

Before coming to the Galapagos Islands, we stopped by the Papallacta Hot Springs outside of Quito. Alex and Atkins braved the cold weather and hot water and jumped in before sprinting to the bus!

Once we arrived to the Galapagos, everyone immediately stripped off their jackets and long sleeves. Susan whipped out her camera and began showing us how to take the best pictures possible. We went to the tortoise reserve on Santa Cruz to see the giant tortoises where Emme crawled into an old tortoise shell and took silly pictures.

The last two days that we spent on the Island have been amazing. We went snorkeling at Sea Lion Island, boated over to another remote island, and then boated back to our hotel where we got ready for our banquet. Cat and Conor—our “professional” free divers—taught us some tips for snorkeling and holding our breath for a long time! On the way to the beach we stopped for a quick break at a remote tree house where Jackson jumped on a slack line and showed us how to walk across it! We spent the rest of the bus ride singing 90s songs and Riley, Olivia, Marlaina, and Mary Alyson whipped out their Go Pro and made a fun music video to record our singing.

The next morning, we woke up to a late breakfast and then traveled to the airport to fly back to Quito. We all sat around in the Quito airport and held a special last Moonup together before going through security. Instead of a nug jug, we did a “memory jug” where we all went around and shared memories from the trip. Brooks, Ella, and Mimi recalled some of the funniest moments on the trip, including all of the times we sang silly songs together!

Of course we can say that the past 2 weeks have been fun, but they have been so much more than that. They have been challenging, rewarding, and worthwhile. Jewlz and I will miss each person dearly. We wish to stay in touch with each person in the group and will always be here for each one of them. Each personality contributed to the group dynamic in some way, and the trip would not have been the same if one person were not there. We are so thankful that we had the chance to work with them and we hope to see everyone again in the near future!

Until then,

Lizzie and Jewlz

Service, Hiking, and Rafting Galore!

July 8, 2017

Hola from the Galapagos Islands! We have had an awesome past five days doing community service and rafting on the Jatanyacu River! We have so much to tell!

On day four we arrived to our lodge in mainland Ecuador to welcome drinks and friendly smiles. The Shandia community is where we spent the next three days of our Ecuadorian adventure participating in the community service portion of our trip. After we were all settled in our rooms we went for a short hike to tour the community. During the community tour Conor’s photography prowess showed forth as he took never-ending succession of beautiful pictures of the mountain landscape.

The following day we began our service project. In the morning we split up into two groups: one group cleared a forest trail of brush and debris while the other group created a walkway using sand and rocks from the nearby beach. Atkins moved the sand and rocks from the beach to the wheelbarrow to the pathway with the efficiency and rapidity of a machine, seemingly never falling victim to fatigue. Brooks led the other group through the forest as the group raked, swept, and macheted their way through the forest and cleared the cluttered pathway.  

The afternoon brought us a surprise as we walked to one of the local farms within the community. Cat impressed us as she simultaneously picked six Yucca plants (similar to large potatoes) from the ground using her bare hands. Jackson, who has a self-proclaimed immunity to hot foods, tried a local chili pepper and, although his face did turn fire engine red, lived up to his reputation.

On the morning of the following day our group traveled into the jungle to hike up a waterfall. Yes, you did read that correctly. We hiked UP a waterfall. Mimi powered through the hike and after reaching the top of the waterfall she proclaimed that she had faced, and conquered, her biggest fear! Susan and Emme seemed right at home with the children as at any moment they could be seen running with the kids, helping them draw or read, or assuming the position of a human jungle gym. Alex found himself locked into a competitive game of Ecuavolley (a game similar to volleyball but using a soccer ball) with the other boys on our trip and one community member. All in all the day was exhilarating, exhausting, and fulfilling.

The next morning we woke up and packed our things for a full day of rafting. Our kids said that they have never had more fun rafting in their entire lives. Ella looked like the captain of the high seas as she rode on the very front of the boat for the majority of the day. Riley and Olivia spearheaded the spirited girls raft with dancing, songs, and vivacious conversation that really pulled the entire raft together. When we pulled into the takeout point after our full day of rafting everyone in the group was clamoring for more time on the rapids but our adventure had to push on!

Once we got off the river, we headed to our hotel for the night. Mary Alyson and Marlaina helped our group to reflect on how awesome this portion of our trip has been and how excited we are to continue our adventure in the Galapagos Islands! They both told of how each of our mainland experiences (horseback riding, zip lining, and community service to name a few) have brought us closer together and their hopes for our continued growth over the final few days of our trip. We are excited to tell you more about our trip as we go!

Until then,

Jewlz and Lizzie


Ecuador - Our New Home Away From Home!

July 2, 2017

Hola from Baños, Ecuador! What an awesome start to this trip. These Moondancers are so full of energy and we’ve already gotten so close as a group.

Everyone arrived to Quito safely with smiles on their faces and urges to explore Ecuador and the Galapagos. We hopped on our private bus from the airport to our hotel downtown Quito and settled into our respective rooms. After a quick Moonup, we decided to get some shut-eye before our 6:45am wake up call for breakfast.

Breakfast was early, and followed by little sleep, but everyone still had the energy to mingle. We enjoyed some coffee, eggs, bananas, watermelon, and papaya before we headed out to Cotopaxi National Park. On the bus Jewlz had everyone go around and say his or her goal for the trip and favorite song choice.

The views from Cotopaxi National Park were exceptional for this time of year. We went on a very fortunate day, because the clouds in the distance did not block the snow-capped peak of the Cotopaxi Volcano, which was a real treat. After everyone saddled up and acquainted with the horses, we trotted to the top of the ridge where we could see 360 views of the national park. Catherine and Conor (who we now refer to as “pots” and “pans” because they’re the best of friends) both had super outgoing horses, which loved to trot ahead of the pack. We passed many cows and donkeys along the way, which made the views of the countryside even better.

After we left Cotopaxi National Park, we drove to Baños, where we found our hotel nestled in the corner of town. Once we all settled in, we decided to check out a local pizza restaurant for dinner. Atkins decided to practice his Spanish and he ordered for the entire table! Later that night we all gathered in the hotel for our first Moonup. Jewlz and I conducted the first Moonup and asked everyone why he/she is here. It was interesting to hear different reasons, from wanting to do community service to practice snorkeling. We then passed on the leader of the day (LOD) duties to Emme and Jackson.

The following morning Emme and Jackson woke us all up early for a morning huddle before breakfast. We hopped on the chiva bus (a bus with disco lights and music!) and headed to the outskirts of town. Marlaina and Olivia encouraged everyone to dance silly on the chiva and we all had a blast whipping through steep hills and misty air in the valley. We stopped at one point to zip line across the river, where Brooks and Alex decided to step up and go first! Brooks and Susan also decided to run under the huge waterfall that we hiked to at the end of the valley—they got soaking wet!

We sang at the top of our lungs all the way back to Baños, where we went to an authentic Ecuadorian restaurant for lunch. Lunch fueled us for an afternoon up the mountain, where we all had the chance to swing on the giant swing overlooking the valley! Ella was bold enough to go first, and we all applauded her for that.

We decided to check out another local restaurant for dinner, so we headed to a vibrant restaurant down the street from our hotel. We walked around the markets near the hotel, where Riley and Mary Alyson both bought a lot of fun souvenirs. After dinner, we met in the hotel again for our second Moonup. Everyone went around and shared a past service experience as an introduction to our service portion of the trip. Everyone really enjoyed hearing Mimi talk about clothing drive that she held for her school! Emme and Jackson were amazing first LODs, but the time came for the to pass on their LOD responsibilities to which they chose to pass them to Brooks and Susan.

Tonight is our last night in Baños and tomorrow morning we will wake up and head to Tena, Ecuador for an introduction to our service portion at the Shandia Lodge in the Shandia Community. We are so excited for this portion of our trip and there is a lot more to come!

We will write our next trip update after we get back to our hotel after whitewater rafting (:


Until then,

Lizzie and Jewlz


Here are a few shout outs from the group!!

Riley: Hi mom and dad!! I’m having an amazing time in Ecuador so far! Can’t wait to tell you guys all about it. Miss and love y’all! xoxo

Cat: Hi family, I miss y’all and love you. I love my leaders and everything is so incredibly beautiful here. Tell Johnny and grace that I miss them too!

Ella: Hi mom, dad, Grady, sully, and Didi! I miss you! Having fun zip lining and exploring the towns ☺

Brooks: Having a great time miss you.

Olivia: hey mom and dad. I’m having so much fun here!! Everyone is really cool and funny and I really like my leaders. Miss you and cant wait to tell y’all all about it!!

Susan: Hey mom and dad. I am having the time of my life. I miss you both so much. I love you and can’t wait to see you when I get back home.  

Alex: Hey Mom & Dad, I’m having a great time in Ecuador. Everyone here is very nice and entertaining. Everything I’ve seen has been amazing.

Atkins: Hey parents!! I’m having a great time in Ecuador. Tomorrow we go to a community in the amazon forest for community service.

Mimi: Hey mom dad and Ned!! Love and miss you so much, I’m having so much fun!

Conor: Hey Mom Dad and Kathryn, hope you guys are having fun on your trip. Miss you guys

Jackson: Hey mom and dad. Miss y’all having a great time.

Mary Alyson: hey guys!! Having so much fun miss y’all

Marlaina: Hey Mama and Daddy, so far I am having a great time here and I’ve met a lot of good, funny people that I like a lot. I miss you and love you so much!

Emme: Hey peeps!!! I’m having so much fun and have met so many great people! I miss y’all and can’t wait to tell you all about my trip!!!

Lizzie: HI FAM! I’m still scoping out super cool souvenirs for you all. Expect some fun things when I see you all at Labor Day!! Mom, dad, and Catherine—I miss you!  However, Ecuador is awesome and the people I’m with are even more awesome and I’m having the time of my life!  

Jewlz: Hello familia! Everything is great here and I’ll see you in a few!

Safe arrival to Ecuador!

June 30, 2017

Hello Ecuador + Galapagos 2A friends and families!

We heard from Lizzie and Jewlz that the whole group made it safely to Ecuador.  Stay tuned for more updates!

-Moondance Administrative Team


  • Ella
  • Marlaina
  • Susan
  • Alex
  • Cat
  • Emme
  • Olivia
  • Jackson
  • Brooks
  • Mimi
  • Atkins
  • Mary Alyson
  • Riley
  • Conor