June 28, 2017
We write you all from Nadi airport after seeing our precious kiddos through security and we are currently equally sad and grateful. Sad to end our amazing trip, but so so happy and grateful to have met such amazing and fun and bright people. This trip has definitely lived up to its billing and we couldn’t have asked for more from our group or this beautiful country.
Since last writing a couple days ago, we saved the best for last and headed straight to the coast for a private slice of paradise at Fiji Beachouse. Here we were promised beautiful sunsets with palm tree-fringed beaches, crystal clear calm water unfazed by the big surf outside of the barrier reefs and a great surfy vibe around the resort with plenty of activities to choose from. Our crew opted for two days of surfing at various spots in the area.
Upon arriving to the resort in the afternoon, our guys were pumped to be in such an idyllic setting and immediately headed down to the beach. Alec and Sophie went for a walk at low tide in the vast area of clear 6-inch deep water, while Quinton and Zelle climbed on some of the horizontally-growing palms that line the shore. The sun broke through the clouds on its way to the horizon to provide us with an awe-inspiring view over the coast as we looked west.
On our first full day, we had a delicious breakfast overlooking the surf before loading up in the surf truck and heading to a nearby beach that had the widest array of blue and green water colors that we saw on the entire trip. We received a short lesson on the beach about the basics of surfing before paddling out to the surf. Thomas and Tim were sitting right on the peak, in the best position to catch the most waves possible. They both caught quite a few and really went for it on some tricky set waves that others in our group deemed too difficult to ride! After a bit of wave riding, the tide started to drop quickly and our attention shifted to the small island located in front of our surf break. We walked through the turquoise waters separating the island from shore to explore the interesting land- and reefscapes there. The scenery was a stunning backdrop for our lunch on the beach.
The following day, sadly our last, the group opted to surf out front, just inside the reef from the heavy breakers out back. Conditions were ideal as two-to-three-foot mellow swells took our surfers into deeper water – making contact with the bottom less likely. Will, Ann Yancey, MT, and Carrie traded fun waves for a couple hours, cheering each other on each time they stood up on a great ride. With the sun peeking out from the clouds and the light offshore winds grooming the clean swells, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions. The gang also loved the boat ride that ferried them to and from the surf break. Afterwards, we headed in to pack up and catch our ride to Nadi. Fortunately the ride back along the coast is absolutely stunning so our minds didn’t focus too much on the trip closing in soon. We made one final stop near Nadi to have some delicious acai bowls and smoothies before shuttling over to the airport. There we took pictures and hung out for a while, making the most of our last moments together before sending them off, through security and on their way back to see all of you in a few short hours!
We’d like to thank you all for sending your wonderful children on this trip to grace us with their wit and kind hearts that made these past two weeks so magical for us. They’ll have some great stories to tell and photos to share when they get home.
Lots of love,
Marc and Harrison
June 26, 2017
Bula vinaka, families!
We’re coming to you live from the beautiful Fiji Beachouse backpackers resort, approaching the tail end of our amazing trip! We’ve just completed our cultural immersion/service section in the small village of Wainandiro and are still buzzing from the experience. Wainandiro is set on the stunning Navua River valley amongst dense, tropical rain forest and with a significant, yet relatively tame river that provides food and transportation and entertainment for the locals. In this region of the island, daily life remains very much as it was when the villages were first settled many years ago. Children hike or take a longboat to school, plantations are tended to by hand and manual tools, and food is still prepared from scratch using local ingredients. It was the perfect setting for our group to truly disconnect and immerse ourselves among the locals to learn about their way of life and slide into an easy rhythm of midday river swims and afternoon rain showers that soundtracked our naps and porch reading sessions.
Our time along the Navua started with a bumpy drive up to the rafting put-in. We divided our group into 3 boats and started our 15-mile long trip through the Upper Navua section. Being the dry season, the rapids were quite manageable and the students were able to really take in the scenery of the unique, narrow canyons that we rafted through for the majority of the day. In calm stretches, our rafting guides would splash us and throw us in the water – with some of our bolder students retaliating and returning the gesture! Quinton was the first to jump ship and start the trend of rotating between boats and yanking guides and students in the water when they least expected it! For lunch, we stopped off at a beautiful waterfall that provided a much-needed rest from paddling. Delicious fruit and sandwiches were eaten, pictures were taken, and yoga was performed under the falls by Will, Sophie, and Carrie. With the bigger rapids behind us, some students got to steer the big rafts. Thomas and Will stepped up to the challenge and handled the last few miles leading up to the village. Once there, we deflated the rafts and settled into our new home.
The village of Wainandiro really opened their arms to us from the moment we arrived. After setting up our beds, we all took a lap around the village to get acquainted and say “Bula” to the locals. Elderly women and young children alike took a genuine interest in our group and didn’t hesitate in asking us to take a seat on the porch to chat or even enter their homes to meet family members and have a bite of whatever they were preparing for dinner. We didn’t exactly know what to expect coming into this section, but the warmth and hospitality of the locals immediately calmed any jitters we may have had. That evening we were invited to a special kava ceremony that was overseen by the village chief and attended by most of the residents. We all wore our new traditional ‘sulu’ skirts and tried the interesting local drink as we were officially welcomed into the community. Afterwards, MT and Ann Yancey initiated a game of cards with some of our new friends and ended up learning a new game in the process. We stayed for a while with our kind hosts before Moonup and bed.
The next few days consisted of breakfast on our porch overlooking the river before hiking to the school in the neighboring village to paint and help teachers any way we could. Tim immediately jumped into helping the teachers and made posters to help the students learn English. The rest of our time at the school was spent facilitating group games and interacting with more children. Overall it was an amazing experience for us and it didn’t surprise anyone when Zelle shed tears on our final day at the school as she reflected on the pure kindness of the children. On Saturday, we crossed the river and learned about some farming techniques. We took turns clearing small areas, digging 1-foot deep holes, and planting young taro plants. Quinton and Thomas enjoyed slashing old stems and using the basic tools to prepare the land. Later, Carrie and Zelle braved the makeshift slide our guide, Petero, created out of a muddy path down to the river!
On Sunday, we saw the village take a break from working to dedicate their entire day to community activities such as church service and our final celebration to see us off before leaving the following morning. We put on our traditional sulus again to attend the simple but beautiful mass. Though we couldn’t understand the Fijian parts of the service, we were touched by the beautiful singing that was delivered wholeheartedly by everyone in attendance. After lunch and a swim with the local children, it was time to start preparing the traditional Fijian ‘lovo,’ or underground oven. Carrie grated coconut meat on a special tool like a natural while Alec prepared taro leaf bundles that would be stuffed with coconut milk and veggies before being wrapped in foil. Sophie grinded garlic for the chicken and peeled taro while other students helped carried the items over to the lovo to be cooked. Some young men buried the items on top of the red-hot rocks and covered them all in banana leaves and dirt to cook the dinner for two hours. That evening we enjoyed a very special send-off kava ceremony, complete with traditional flower necklaces prepared by the children and mothers of the village, before feasting on the contents of the lovo. It was the perfect way to wrap up our time with these lovely people and leave a lasting impression of their unique culture in all of our memories.
Today we woke up and said our last goodbyes before rafting out and driving to Fiji Beachouse, where we will spend our last few days in an idyllic setting while learning to surf and enjoying the myriad activities afforded to us by this privileged setup. We’ll check back in with you guys in a few days as things wrap up in Fiji.
We hope you’re all well and not too jealous of our wonderful trip!
Love to all,
Marc and Harrison and the gang
Ann Yancey – Hey HB and Fodge, It’s pretty cool here. See you soon! Love you good
Sophie – Hey, Mom and Dad, see you in a couple days. Bye ️
Quinton – Hey, Dad, it’s really fun out here. Love you, bye. See you when I get home. Hey Mom, hey Hamp, hey Virginia, I’m SMBO!
Will – Hey, Mom and Dad. I miss y’all but I don’t want to come home yet!
MT – Hey Mom and Dad, I’m staying here, sorry! Love you, see you soon
Zelle – Hey, Mom and Dad. Fiji is beautiful and the people on the trip are great. I’m having a blast. Love you!
Alec – Hey, Mom and Barry. It’s Alev here. I’m having fun with Constantine. I hope you enjoyed Amsterdam
Tim – Hey, Mom and Dad, I hope Ireland was fun. It’s all good here. See y’all in a few days
Thomas – Hey, family. Fiji’s much better than Missouri, but missing some home-cooked meals. Love, T
Carrie – Hello family! I’m loving the islands. The best new friends 🙂 I love you and miss you. Heart to heart.
June 20, 2017
We have settled into island life here in Fiji! After leaving our comfortable hotel in Nadi we headed down the coast to Pacific Harbor for the next week of scuba diving. The drive from Nadi took us along the shallow barrier-reef and through dense tropical jungle. We stopped at a roadside market and grabbed some local fare of hot corn and bananas. It was great to see rural Fiji after a couple days in busy Nadi and really feel our tropical location.
After a long bus ride, we finally arrived at Club Oceanus, our home for the next few days. When we arrived, we were greeted by a few local children, named Jayden, Delia, Taylor, Sienna, and Tolu. Everyone enjoyed each other by singing Flashlight by Jessie J and kicking a soccer ball into a homemade goal. Carrie was very impressed with how talented the little girls were at singing and Thomas was amazed by Jayden’s tremendous soccer skills. Tired from the activities everyone decided to go relax at a nearby beach called The Pearl, a quick walk across the street where our group was greeted by a rainbow and idyllic vista of surrounding islands. After some swimming, Ann Yancy suggested we played ninja, which ended in an epic duel between Carrie, Thomas, and Sophie, and Sophie was crowned the winner. Zelle proposed that we play a popular game named Same Page, which involves two people trying to be on the same page to guess a word by giving hints. Everyone initially struggled with the rules, but after three rounds, all of us had mastered the game. The next day everyone jumped into the pool and took their first breaths underwater! The group had to split in two for the pool sessions so to pass the time while the other group was in the water we played a new game, Nuke ‘Em, on the volleyball court and it was an instant hit. Mary Thompson held her own on an all boys team and led her team to an overall victory! Once getting into the water and becoming familiar with our gear we were put to the test with the first open water dive. Hopping below the surface our eyes were opened to a whole new world of underwater life! Pairing off, everyone went for a quick swim along the reef edge and practiced the skills from the morning pool sessions. The highlight of everyone’s day were the cherry flavored cookies provided to us after diving on the boat. It was a sweet ending to a great first day on the ocean.
The next morning we jumped right back into the ocean for two more dives in the morning and a Fijian style afternoon hanging around our camp. Tim showed the group his scuba skills and helped others get their skills down in the water. After spending the morning listening to the dive masters (shout out to Ilison!) everyone was happy to get back on land. We spent the afternoon bridge jumping and doing other various activities with the local children around camp. Zelle took a break from the morning dives to run into town with Marc and decided to surprise everyone with a special cake after lunch to celebrate another great day of diving! Thomas joined the local boys in some “skurfing” and adventuring up the river while the rest of the group jumped off the bridge and headed back to the beach for the afternoon.
The fourth day of diving is when everyone would receive their PADI certifications! Finishing out the day with another open water dive everyone in the group successfully completed their dive certification! Carrie conquered her fear of diving and felt ready to head out the next day for the soft coral dives! Once finishing our dives everyone headed into the local town to celebrate with smoothies and helped to grab dinner supplies. To celebrate everyone’s accomplishments we cooked a wonderful meal of chicken fried rice and sandwiches thanks to our amazing cook crew and a special thanks for the noodles Will made! After stuffing ourselves with dinner, Ann Yancey led half the group in fitness, during which she knocked out four 3-minute planks and motivated everyone else to follow her lead. Needless to say there were some sore people the next morning! King Neptune saved the best for last. On our final day of scuba we travelled out to Kombe Reef for some open water exploring. The coral was full of life and the schools of fish were stunning. Fiji lived up to its claim of the soft coral capital of the world. One of the groups even spotted a shark when they first got in the water. Sophie was the master breathing by staying under the water the longest and was able to do extra exploring with one of the dive masters.
A few hours of exploring left us all tired and hungry, so we ate lunch and lounged by the pool at our hotel while the girls relaxed and the boys played frisbee. After regaining our energy we headed back to the beach for a final swim and one last dinner at the group favorite, The Establishment. We spent the remainder of the night packing while entertained by Quinton and Alec’s comedic banter. Next we head into our rafting and community service section! Much more to come!!
We miss you all and can’t wait to tell you about our community service!
Harrison and Marc
June 16, 2017
Bula, Moondance parents!!
Greetings from our new home the south pacific! Skies are blue, the wind is light and variable, and the sun is shining bright on our little pocket of paradise. Our group arrived sleepy but safely from LAX early yesterday morning. We wasted no time getting into island lifestyle with a delicious breakfast by the hotel pool. While most students ordered some standard American breakfast fare, Carrie was keen to start her foray into island cuisine and ordered a plate of vegetable and egg fried rice!
We had a couple hours to kill before our catamaran island cruise, so the gang threw on their swimsuits and headed out to the calm pool to chat and swim and nap. Alec and Sophie were the first ones brave enough to take on the fast slide and be guinea pigs for the cool pool water. They took turns riding down with the group GoPro and motivated the others to join them. We enjoyed some local snacks and mellow tunes provided by DJs Marc and Harrison before loading up the van and heading over to Port Denarau for our sail.
The “Wanaka” is a 44-foot long catamaran that took our group 30 minutes on a delightfully calm sail over to a small tropical island and reef system. The crew comprised of a few smiling Fijians that made us feel comfortable and safe on the boat. They brought us refreshments and let the students steer the boat. On our approach to the island, Quinton and Alec helped distribute and clean up the delicious boxed lunches provided to us by the outfitter. This would provide us with sufficient energy for our hour-long snorkeling session around the island’s lively reef. In the ocean, we all saw some amazing marine life, both expected and completely new to many of us. There were blue starfish, moray eels, clown fish (NEMO!), giant clams, thick schools of thousands of small shiners, and wonderfully bright tropical fish. Mary Thompson was brave enough to handle the slimy sea cucumber that slithered in her hand while she held it up and tried, to no avail, to get some other students to hold it! We swam ashore like true castaways and imagined life on a deserted island for a break from snorkeling and learned a little about the island from our Fijian guides. We walked along the shore and took in the breathtaking views. Eventually we made our way back to the boat for a show of flips and jumps! Will and Ann Yancey were the winners of the backflip contest, both executing near perfect flips into the water with lots of applause. Heading back to the mainland we enjoyed fresh cut fruit and refreshments while taking lots of group pictures and listening to music. All in all, it was an idyllic first day in Fiji!
We got back to the hotel and settled into our spacious rooms. Moving 15 heavy duffle bags is no small feat, and we have to give special mention to Tim for always being ready first and offering us and other students to make another trip for more bags. Finishing out the day, Thomas and Zelle used their knowledge from previous Moondance trips to set an example as our first leaders of the day (LODs) and facilitated the group’s first official moon up. We sat beneath the stars and shared spirit animals to round out a perfect day and got to bed early. Now we are headed down the coast to start our SCUBA diving section!! We’ll check in in a few more days to tell you all about our experiences!
Vinaka and au saa liu mada!
Marc and Harrison
June 14, 2017
Hi Fiji Families!
We’ve spoken with the leaders, and everyone has touched down in Nadi, Fiji! We’re excited for the adventure to begin! Stay tuned!
-The Moondance Administrative Team