July 15, 2017
Hello from our overnight stay in LA! We said “mode” (goodbye) to Fiji last night with heavy hearts and just a few tears but are grateful to get to spend some last bits of time with each other stateside. We filled our last chunk of time in Fiji with memories to last a lifetime. The afternoon after we finished SCUBA, we spent our downtime listening to music and reading (we love our nerdy group and have adopted the motto “either be a nerd or work for one”), and Sarah even finished her summer reading book! Special shoutout to Bralyn for being the trip DJ on that afternoon and every afternoon – girl has sick music taste. That night, we dressed in our Fijian garb and had an outdoor banquet dinner to celebrate all our accomplishments and good times together. The girls sported their sulus (traditional Fijian skirts) as dresses and the boys wore them in the traditional skirt form. As we sat at the dinner table, it truly felt like we were sitting with our family away from home. We even had our own family pet in that moment after Taylor kindly befriended the owner’s cat! Toward the end of our meal, the kids initiated a toasting ceremony. We, the leaders, were incredibly proud of the insightful remarks all the students made at dinner regarding their time on the trip.
Our last day on the island entailed a private catamaran and sailboat ride from Denarau Island to a small island about an hour away from Port Denarau. As we left the dock, clouds covered the sky, but as soon as we hit the ocean, the sun came out as if it had been waiting for us. It was as if the universe knew that we were ending our time on the island and was gracing us with one last hurrah.
As soon as we got to the island, Ansley put on her snorkel gear and hopped in the water. Within five minutes of being in the water, she spotted a reef shark! Meanwhile on the boat, Casey and Emma Clark initiated a “female fight club” on the trampoline-style hammocks built into the catamaran. And if that wasn’t goofy enough, Sarah Grace continued with her trip-long past time of friendly pranks on the rest of the group. Pretty soon, we had the entire squad erupting in laughter (including the boat crew)! Haley whipped out her high-tech camera and distinguished herself as the photographer for the day – be on the lookout for some GREAT shots! The boat crew served us a plate of fresh fruit as a lunch appetizer and then we had lunch as we sat over the crystal clear water. When they told us we had to head back to the port, many of the students nearly jumped overboard and began swimming in an attempt to avoid having to leave. Nonetheless, we stayed on the boat and embraced the splashing waves. Just as Patrick began to doze off, a massive wave came at him from both directions. The shocked look on his face was hilarious, but he was quick to return to his spot after attempting to dry off. Just when we thought Fijians could not be more thoughtful and kind, a member of the boat crew gave Madison a fresh coconut-leaf hair bow that he made on the boat. As we approached the dock, Preston jumped off the boat and swam to the dock to soak up the Fijian ocean one last time.
We headed to the airport while watching the Fijian sunset one last time. During our airport moonup, Emma Clark opened the (figurative) nug jug by hilariously retrieving it from the airport adventure park. Melissa handled her selection as a “special check” for security and requirement to go through homeland security like a champ – we think she might have a future in international travel based on all her airport trials and tribulations.
On the plane, Patrick befriended the man sitting next to him. This man was not just any ordinary man, but he had just finished up working for Survivor Fiji 2017 (which was, by the way, filmed on an island we were able to see from a distance on the catamaran). We quickly found out that the entire cast and crew of the show was on board with us. Casey (possibly THE biggest survivor fan) finagled her way into first class and talked for five minutes with host, Jeff Probst. Some happy tears were shed.
We just ate dinner Cali-style with burgers, fries, and milkshakes from In-n-Out and concluded our last moonup. We rejoiced in all that we had learned during our time together – reflecting back particularly on our service section, which simultaneously feels like yesterday and forever ago. We could not be more proud of this group of kids. They worked excellently with one another and everyone else we encountered during our time in Fiji. Our group was filled to the brim with kids who demonstrate exceptional maturity, confidence, and independence, and this allowed for our group to excel as a team. Thank you to all the parents for all that you are doing in raising your children. And thank you even more for giving us the opportunity to share this experience with and learn from them!
Vinaka! Thank you!
~ Reba, Mary Moran, and Gray ~
July 13, 2017
Certified Scuba Divers, checking in!! We have spent the past 5 days at Club Oceanus, learning and practicing the skills of SCUBA diving on our way to becoming officially certified ????. It’s been incredible watching this whole gang grow in confidence and abilities, from practicing in the 4-foot-deep swimming pool to diving around shipwrecks off the Fijian coastline.
First things first: pool dives. The group strapped on the SCUBA kits and took their first underwater breath in the glorious Club Oceanus pool. Successfully breathed air while submerged in water? Check. Overall, an accomplished first day.
We quickly moved on to our first open ocean dive! The morning session was for all the newbies, excluding Mo, Reba, Bralyn, Ansley, and Haley. With full stomachs and clear goggles, we knew it was going to be a good day. Those first two dives did not let us down in the slightest. Underwater, we were introduced to a beautiful new world of colors, animals, and a sense of weightlessness that feels impossible to now describe. Our bold adventurers Preston and Taylor wasted no time in sinking down (safely I might add) to the ocean floor to start exploring. We saw complex coral forests and the brightest fish you can imagine, all while practicing our new skill sets. And if that wasn’t enough to occupy our time, Emma Clark also managed to snag sweet GoPro footage under the sea that we’ll all cherish in the years to come.
The next day of diving had all 15 of us on the big boat going out together to tackle whatever the ocean could throw our way. For Mo, Reba, Ansley, and Haley, that meant 80 feet underwater exploring a shipwreck! They skillfully tackled this deep-water dive while the rest of us continued to work on our lessons for certification. After a long morning on the water, it was time to head back in to celebrate a *belated* and *slightly Fijian* 4th of July!!! On the menu was homemade burgers and dogs, on the aux was CCR and Toby Keith, and on our bodies was every bit of red white and blue we could possibly find. Melissa took on the role of Grill Master in incredible fashion, while Casey led the charge in festive games and activities for the evening. For being thousands of miles away from U.S. soil, we certainly managed to create an Independence Day to be remembered.
On our next adventure, the boat took us to The Bistro, Fiji’s most famous shark dive location (cue Jaws theme song). While the instructors were not feeding the sharks while we were there, that didn’t stop a variety of different sharks from swimming over to say hello during our dive. Bull sharks, lemon sharks, white tips sharks, they were all in attendance. Sarah and Taylor inspired everybody with their courage in the water, teaching us that no fear is too big to conquer. Combined with Patrick and Madison’s never-faltering positivity, the shark dive turned out to be a team favorite.
Out of the water, this crew never ran out of ways to keep ourselves entertained. At any given moment, we could find Ansley the Pool Shark running the billiards table or Melissa and Bralyn dominating card games. Occasionally, there was even Sarah Grace elegantly flying through the air during impromptu cheer routines. Needless to say, this group has been making incredible memories in and out of the ocean. It’s been a trip of a lifetime with this squad. There’s never a dull moment, and that’s exactly how we like it. Up next, we’re taking the helm and sailing out into uncharted waters. Pun. Intended. Coral Cat Sailing, here we come. Until next time folks, stay tuned.
July 9, 2017
Hello! – or cola oka in Wainadiro dialect. During our last few days in Wainadiro Village, we have come closer as a group and have managed to form strong bonds with the people of the village. Wainadiro means ‘to remember,’ and we surely will not forget the selflessly kind and welcoming members of Wainadiro who welcomed us into their family.
After waking up and watching the sunrise, we departed our first home on the island and drove to the Navua River junction. We boarded our rafts and were quickly amazed by the beauty of the incredibly lush forest surrounding us as we floated down the river. Feeling like we were on the set of Tarzan or Jurassic Park, we reflected on the past few days and enjoyed the tranquility of our surroundings. The peacefulness, however, was transient and Bralyn and Haley spearheaded sneak attacks on people in other rafts. Preston was awarded the pirate MVP for selflessly doing a full body leap to tackle the last remaining dry rafter. By this point, everyone was erupting in belly-aching laughter and either swimming down the river or soaking wet in the raft.
We made it to Wainadiro village in the late afternoon and were all blown away by the house the chief’s family had vacated for our group. Later that night, we participated in a village welcome ceremony, in which we introduced ourselves and shared some stories with the villagers. We left the ceremony feeling excited and anticipatory for the time we would spend here and hit the hay early and slept soundly through the night.
We woke to the sound of roosters, ate a hardy breakfast, and hiked to the nearby Wambone Village School. After saying a brief hello to some of the students (school is in session here since it is their winter!), we painted the library ceiling a night sky with all the planets included and named (idea credit: Ansley). In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to play with the kids, and the whole group took notice of Taylor’s rockstar engagement with the kids. We played a formal game of powderpuff rugby against some of the older schoolgirls, and Casey quickly adopted the status of coach-captain-player due to her enthusiasm. After hiking back to Wainadiro, the group rejoiced in pancakes with Fijian butter, which has become their favorite snack, and played cards as the sun faded. To Gray’s dismay, Melissa established herself as the ERS queen after repeatedly winning the game (Gray takes a lot of pride in being the best at this game). During dinner that night, Sarah Grace showed usher willingness to embrace the culture by trying the traditional Fijian curry dinner.
At school the next day, the kids taught us a traditional Fijian dance we would be expected to perform at the closing ceremony. Madison wooed us all with her dance moves and ability to pick up the moves so quickly. We spent our last full day in Wainadiro relaxing, playing in the river, and helping to prepare the food for the goodbye ceremony that night. Ansley, Patrick, Preston and Taylor traveled about 300 meters down the river on their self-made bamboo rafts and picked taro leaves, an essential component of the main dish for the night. After an emotional goodbye ceremony that night, we celebrated our time spent in the village over Moonup. Our Moonup that night consisted of the typical agenda: relevant quote, nug jug, nightly nug to Patrick for being a stellar human being, question of the night, and naming of the next day’s leaders of the day.
As we hopped on our duckie rafts, the chief’s wife and children sang us a heart-wrenching goodbye song. Although we were quite honestly devastated to be leaving our new friends from whom we had learned so much, we were quickly captivated by controlling our individual duckies through the rapids. Sarah led the way during the whole journey down the river, and Emma Clark initiated a karaoke session while we were on calmer water. We just arrived to our final lodging site and cannot wait to begin our scuba section! Mode for now!
~Reba, Mary Moran, and Gray~
P.S. Shoutouts from the kiddos!:
Emma Clark: Hi mom, dad, Davis, and Elli! I miss you guys tons, but I’m having such an amazing time over here. I hope you guys are having fun without kids and that all is well in London for Davis! Take care of the Jeep for me!
Haley: Hey family! I love Fiji and am having so much fun here. I hope yall had fun in LA. I love you soo much and miss all of you.
Madison: Hey mom, dad, Hudson and friends. Miss you all so much! I’m having so much fun here!!! I hope you all are having TONS of fun in Nash. Excited to see you soon <3
Bralyn: Hey guys! This trip is the greatest! Thanks mom 😉 I miss you all so so much. I hope yall are having a blast back home. Can’t wait to see you guys! Love yall!
Patrick: Hey everyone back home! I’m having the time of my life here! I miss pralines and chick-fil-a (hint hint). @mom and dad, I miss yall so much but sell the house because we’re moving to Fiji!!!!!!!
Sarah: Hey family! This is the best trip I have ever been on in my life! I moss you all so much! Give Annie a treat for me! Love you! Mode!
Casey: Hey family! Love and miss yall! I’m having so much fun, tell Georgie I love her so much! Have fun in Colorado!!!
Preston: I’m having fun, will tell you the rest when I get back, and I have lots of pictures!
Taylor: Hey Mom and Dad. I miss you guys. I’m having so much fun in Fiji. Love and miss yall. PS I broke my camera, I will tell you guys what happened when I get home.
Ansley: Hey guys I miss yall so much but I’m having a great time 🙂 and can’t wait to tell you about all the adventures I’ve had when I get back.
Sarah Grace: Hey family!!! I miss yall so much but I’m having so much fun. I have so many cool things to tell yall when I get home.
Melissa: Hey family!!! I miss you SO much! I’m having the best time ever here and am scuba diving! I miss yall and Phoebe and SATCO and I can’t wait to see yall. Love you soooo much! xoxo
July 3, 2017
Hello, Hola, Ciao, Bonjour, Guten tag and finally BULA!
Although it took us around 24 hours to get to Fiji, we have loved meeting people from all corners of the world in this tropical, global hotspot. It took us a whole day to fully grasp that we have successfully time traveled across the international dateline, and that no one will ever live July 30th, 2017. After reuniting with the group at the airport, we all hopped into a 15 passenger van and took in our lush surroundings as we journeyed to our home for the next three nights. Stopping to grab sulus, the traditional ceremonial attire, and Fijian donuts at a local beachside restaurant, we played name games and were instantly impressed with Madison’s ability to name everyone at the table. Our first day at Fiji Beachhouse was spent relaxing on the beach and basking in good company, along with many competitive rounds of cards- including but not limited to capitalism, BS (bull shark), and Egyptian Rat Screw. While playing the animal game, Preston became ‘doggo’ with his rapid and eerily perfect rendition of a puppet dog. We started our synchronous sleeping schedule of rising and setting with the sun by going to bed early, in hopes of fully combating all time-travel sleepiness and arose the next morning bright-eyed and ready to tackle surfing. High tide was around noon, so we threw on our rash guards and loaded into the boat after lunch. Haley impressed us with her mad surfing skills, but even more so with her willingness to help the others get up and manage their boards. Sarah refused to accept defeat and worked to become one of the better surfers in the group. After surfing we spent the afternoon resting up after the sun and sea had drained us of our energy.
That night we surprised the group with dinner out. Right before sunset, we ventured to a nearby, locally owned and built wood-fired pizza restaurant that held the most breathtaking views one could ever wish to eat pizza near. Ansley could not resist the pineapple pizza and happily feasted on the local, juicy pineapple. With full bellies and happy hearts, our group ventured down the side steps and onto the beach, where Bralyn met some locals who allowed her to ride their horses down the beach and into the sunset. Meanwhile her picturesque view, Taylor and Patrick are swinging from a 30 foot vine with locals cheering them on. The next morning we arose with the sun and traveled through the Pacific Ocean to a neighboring island that encompassed true paradise in all forms of the imagination. This island is only inhabited by one village, who allows us to visit their home for the day, and we truly felt like royalty. Amidst the perfect mountainous landscaping, Sarah Grace impressed us with her multiple back flips off the top tier of the boat and into the crystal clear waters below. The beautiful shells sprinkling the soft, white sand led us to a secret cove and provided the perfect scene for Emma Clark, Madison, and Melissa to build a massive drip castle with a moat and surrounding villages. After a BBQ lunch on the island, the group played a volleyball match with some of the guides and locals where Casey was able to show off her own skills and impressed the locals and our group immensely. With a little sadness after our final goodbye bonfire/beach dance party at Fiji Beachhouse, we all rose in spirits as we escaped to our rooms to pack for white water rafting and our next four nights in the Wainadiro Village, where we can truly immerse ourselves in what it means to live in the Fijian culture. We are very excited and will touch base afterwards with many more stories to share!
Until next time,
Mary Moran, Rebecca, and Gray
June 30, 2017
Hey Fiji 2B friends and families!
Gray, Rebecca & Mary Moran let us know that all students have arrived safely, and they are off on their adventure. Stay tuned for more updates!
-Moondance Administrative Team