June 27, 2018
At the end of our adventure together we want to say thank you for allowing us the pleasure of having your children for the past 2 weeks. We had an incredible time and genuinely enjoyed getting to know each and every member of our new family. Alec kept us entertained with his dance moves and positive attitude. Baxley kept us laughing. Emily demonstrated how to step out of ones comfort zone and showed great courage. Chase’s maturity and ability to unite the group through a simple game of cards was unparalleled. Reid’s consistent smiling face and survivor man skills were contagious. AJ kept us up to date with viral dance moves. Liles always had a smile on her face. Lily was relentless with the card games. Eileen showed her skills as our mafioso. Bradley was incredible with his surfing skills. Caroline helped our group with her go get it attitude and contagious personality. CeCe taught us all how to love each other and always stick together.We truly enjoyed getting to know each and every single one of them and really hope to see them again on a Moondance trip.
Juliet, Billy and Tejas
June 26, 2018
After a long day of travel we finally made it to Belize! Travel day couldn’t have gone better. We made it to Belize City in the afternoon and we were happy to meet up with Janie, a pal from the office headquarters whom we would be spending the rest of the trip with. We enjoyed our last meal in civilization on the boardwalk overlooking the Caribbean Sea. After a night of restful sleep, we set off on a two hour long boat ride to Long Caye, our island home for the next week. Along the way we spotted the beautiful coral reefs and crystal clear waters that would be the venue of our vast scuba learning center. Lily and Reid were lucky enough to spot some flying fish on the way! Upon arrival, we moved into our beachside house and wasted no time getting fitted for our scuba gear and meeting our dive masters. We got back to our house and met Nidia, our in-house chef that would be staying with us for the week. She cooked up some chicken tostadas for lunch and we were on our way to the dock for our first confined water dive lesson. The dive masters took us to a shallow sand bar and we began our first lesson recapping the basics we learned from our online PADI course. We went over hand signals, safety maneuvers, and assembly/disassembly of our gear. By the time we got back to land, we were spent. We decompressed the day on some hammocks that CeCe found. We decided to have our dinner and hit the hay to rest up for our early morning confined dive session.
We woke up to a beautiful sunrise after a restful sleep. A few of us elected to sleep beach side in our hammocks. After a delicious breakfast of eggs and toast we headed to the dock for our second day on the boat with our eccentric dive masters. We learned more about neutral buoyancy and how to use our BCDs. Caroline kept us all afloat on our long day with her infectious attitude. We came back to our beach side lodge for a wonderful lunch. Nidia fixed us chicken tacos and a fresh juice. After lunch we had a quick break to play a few rounds of spades and kimps. Lily and Chase came out on top. We soon headed back out for our first open water dive. Our captain took us to a reef only five minutes from long Caye and we had a beautiful wall dive. We saw all sorts of marine life from mantis shrimp to a reef shark! After exploring our underwater world we headed back to the hotel for empanadas. Before dinner lily, Chase, Alec, Baxley, and Liles explored the island a bit walking through the islands mangrove forest. We ran into one of the baby crocodiles living on the island. Baxley and Eileen showed us their artistic side by crafting bracelets for everyone to wear. Once our bellies were full we headed out to the beach to have our moonup under a star filled sky.
Day 11 was one for the books! We had another great day under the water, learning our new scuba skills. One of our favorite parts was learning the hand signals for underwater communication. We learned the signals for hovering, barracuda, shark, grouper, angelfish, eel, lion fish, and other underwater creatures! Bradley soon decided we would be using these out of the water to communicate, and we all had a fun time trying to converse solely using signs! We got plenty of use with them in the water too, as we were lucky enough to have a lot of friendly fish visitors to watch us perform our scuba skills! In the middle of performing skills, we looked up and saw a beautiful eagle ray slowly swimming by about 15 feet away.
While the rest of our gang was working towards their open water certification, Emily and Juliet were taking the advanced open water course. Highlights of this included doing a fish identification dive, underwater navigation, perfecting buoyancy, and a deep dive where they went over 100 feet deep! Emily got lucky enough to have a shark swim literally right next to her!
We filled our free time after dives with music on the beach, tanning and playing cards. On our first day of the island, Reid discovered a baseball in the sand. We decided to name said baseball Wilhem, and the boys all enjoyed playing games of stickball on the beach together. We stayed happy and full with Nidia’s meals, favorites being burritos and tostadas! Watermelon and afternoon cookies were also crowd pleasers. We decided to do moonup on the dock that night, where the question was “where do you see the person next to you in 10 years?”
The next morning we woke up excited for the day — our final open water dive! We brought the speaker on the boat, and Bradley helped keep the vibes high by blasting “another day in paradise”, the song of the trip! After doing some fun seated back roll dives, all of us got in the water and descended down into the Aquarium, the dive site for the day. The name is very fitting, as we were greeted by hundreds of multicolored fish as we descended down. We did a wall dive, where we got to go all the way down to 60 feet and see everything from parrotfish to sea cucumbers to trumpetfish! The kids all surfaced as CERTIFIED DIVERS!! So proud! Victoriously, we boated back to Long Caye and relaxed the rest of the day, taking in some rays and living in the moment. The next day, we snorkeled on Half Moon Caye, and were treated to fresh coconuts again. We got a tour of the island and got to see the red footed booby birds, indigenous to the island. The afternoon was filled with fishing, where Chase caught some big fish and Baxley got to feed some of the frigate birds.
Our last night was bittersweet. We had changed from a group of 15 strangers to a close knit family. Nidia cooked us some barracuda that our fishermen had caught that day accompanied by a freshly baked cake. We handed out a few superlatives and enjoyed our final dinner together. We reflected on our time together at our final moonup, led by our LODs Lily and AJ. We stayed up a little later than usual to soak up the last moments together.
We have enjoyed every second of this trip, and feel so lucky to have shared this amazing experience with an even better group of young adults.
Until next time,
Juliet, Billy, and Tejas
June 19, 2018
Hola from Costa Rica!
Day 4 started off right with an early morning yoga session, with the surround sound of the jungle in the background. Juliet and Billy led the early-risers through a series of yoga poses, ending with Caroline and Lily both successfully getting into the “grasshopper” position —very impressive! The whole gang then woke up and headed to breakfast, where we fueled up for our service day with fresh fruit, homemade hashbrowns, and of course, rice and beans (a crowd favorite).We then began our walk to the el Brujo community. We walked through the beautiful country side being sure to say hi to the curious cows and horses. We started to see so many waterfalls, we decided to make a game out of it (who can spot the waterfall first…Liles won!). When we got to the town center, we split up the group into teams to take on the various tasks.Reid, Tejas, Juliet, Chase, and Emily dug post holes and cemented them in to make stadium seating for the soccer field. Billy and co did painting and planted trees by the riverbank, making what we all referred to as our future “Avenue of Giants.”We played soccer and gave bubble wands out to the kids and gave gifts.At the end of the day we painted our hands and made prints on the wall of the community center, creating a “Moondance Wall.”After our walk back to Buenaventura, Tamara showed us around her garden. This is the where all of her food for three seeds is grown. We started the tour in her herb garden which had wild parsley and basil. We then moved on to where she grows all of her vegetables ranging from a local Costa Rican potato called to fresh tomatoes. Alec and Reid showed their courage by trying a super hot pepper which ended with them sucking for air. They were soon relieved by the fresh coconut water picked fresh from the trees and cut open on the spot. Caroline also expanded on her love for coconuts the whole group got to try some new and intriguing new foods like starfruit, cas, cacao, coffee, mango, passion fruit, lime, sweet lemon, oranges, lychee, and sugar cane. Tamara then showed up where chocolate beans come from. We were all shocked to see that the beans are coated in a sugary and exotic slime which we tasted and it turned out to be very delicious. After the tour we grounded sugarcane to make sugar water to quick our thirst from the day. Bradley and Lily were naturals at extracting the sugar water. We then used the cocoa beans we harvested to made brownies from scratch. After a shower and a few games of pterodactyl and Wa we had a delicious home made pizza with fresh cheese made on the farm with brownies and ice cream for desert. After dinner we followed Moondance tradition and found a white space on the wall to leave our mark on Three Seeds. Moonup was a wonderful end to our day with the questions being your most embarrassing story and the most challenging event in your life.
Day 5 was a huge hit with the kids! From waterfall chilling to riding in four-by-fours, we did it all. We started our morning with a yoga session from our in-house yoga instructor, Diya from Equador. We then moved on to our final breakfast in Buenaventura consisting of cinnamon rolls and smoothies (which Caroline so graciously poured for us and surprised us with) made from cocoa beans, fresh cow milk, and bananas sourced from the onsite farm. After saying our final goodbyes and exchanging hugs with our lovely host family, we set out on our waterfall hike in the heart of Costa Rica. Accompanied by locals and their dogs, Loki and Venus, we climbed to “Toucan Rock”- a well kept secret amongst the natives that doubles as a spring-fed watering hole. Our guide, Harlow, showed us how to use the clay at the bottom of the pool as a natural exfoliate. The native people that once inhabited the land would use this blue clay as an extra layer against bugs and to keep their skin protected. As we rubbed our skin with this clay we began our transformation into avatars. We used another orange clay to paint on designs on top on the blue layer. After all the clay had dried we scrubbed it off shedding a layer of skin leaving us feeling rejuvenated and exfoliated. Liles and Baxley and Eileen even put the clay in their hair, channeling their inner smurf! We then hopped in the river for a natural bath and headed back to camp to continue on our Costa Rican adventure. We boarded our 4×4 taxis to meet back up with our bus taking in the last breathtaking sights of Buenaventura. Once on the bus we stopped at a local urban cafe and enjoyed an array of food from chicken burritos to fresh garden salads. With full bellies we boarded the bus for our journey to Turrialba. While some of us dove into some card games others rested their eyes as we drove through the monotonous fog. After a long car ride we finally arrived at our hotel in Turrialba and headed out for a quick bite to eat. We stopped by a japrican restaurant (a combination of Japanese and Costa Rican, coined by Chase). After dinner we had a wonderful Moonup hosted by our LODs Bradley and Emily. Our questions consisted of “if you could be stuck at a certain age what would it be?” and “if you could live in any year past or future what would it be?” We headed to bed eager to find out what the next day on the river would have in store.After a restful night of sleep, we all woke up excited to hit the water! We had a short little ride to the Pacuare River, where we met our raft guides and strapped on our helmets and life jackets. We focused up for a brief but thorough safety tutorial and wasted no time hitting Class 1 and 2 rapids. Along the way, we stopped at a few waterfalls where we explored seemingly untouched ecosystems characterized by beautiful boulders and lush greenery. We climbed up onto rock structures and took refreshing dives into deep holes that have been naturally carved out over water by the water. After getting back in our rafts, we pushed off once more. Surprisingly, we were able to apply our new surfing skills to rafting when our guide pulled us into a famous hydraulic. We surfed the swirling rapid of the hydraulic five or six times in each boat, each time refining our technique more and more. Before we knew it, we pulled up to the bank of our new lodging at the eco-cabins. After settling in, we all took time to admire the wonderful soothing crashing of the river water conjoined by the sounds of the rainforest while we laid in hammocks and reclined in wooden lawn chairs. It took no time at all for CeCe and Baxley to break out their sets of cards while Reid and Lily found set of Costa Rican jenga. The remainder of the day was set aside for some well deserved recuperation, relaxation, and contemplation! Chase, Lily, Bradley and Alec learned how to play spades and engaged in a heated game of cards. AJ, Liles, Baxley, Emily, and Eileen practiced their poker faces in games of BS, short for “beaver shark” (a mysterious mythical creature that lucky rafters have seen on the Pacuare). Our raft guides provided us with some hot chocolate and cookies for the afternoon as we relaxed. During Moonup, our LODs, Caroline and Chase, asked us where we would want to retire and who we would want to have lunch with, living or dead. Overall, we had an awesome day filled with the perfect mix of excitement and relaxation.
Day 7 was WILD! We slept in, fueled up at breakfast, and then began tackling 16 miles of the biggest and baddest rapids on the Pacuare. We upgraded to class 3 and 4 rapids. After some understandable pre-rafting jitters, the group came together on their respective boats and faced their fears head on. Emily exhibited a lot of courage and was smiling ear to ear after every rapid. Liles was a powerhouse on the “Sharp Sharks” raft, never failing to keep the group in sync throughout. Before entering two consecutive class 4 rapids, one of our jovial guides informed us that these rapids were known as the upper and lower “gavas”. None of us knew at the time what that translated to, but nonetheless we conquered the rapids in style. Afterwards, our guide informed us that gavas meant graves and we had survived!! High key dope on the dope-o-meter, as Alec would say. We stopped for a quick lunch on the riverbank, and squeezed in a game of pterodactyl, where as always, Lily lasted about 1 minute before bursting into laughter and getting kicked out of the game. Better luck next time! Towards the end of the rafting, we entered a calm corridor between two serene mountains, where we were allowed to get out and swim. Liles and Eileen attempted backflips and crushed it! AJ and Chase did their backflips off the raft at the same time, which was pretty epic. After one final rapid, called congratulations, we got out of the water and said goodbye to the Pacuare. We reunited with our awesome driver, Miykol, and set out once again towards San Jose. Once arriving at the hotel, we played mafia in the jacuzzi, where Emily and Reid ended up getting away with murder and winning the game. The losers were banished into the infinity pool, known as the the “pool of broken souls!” We closed out our time in Costa Rica with an awesome moonup by the pool, where we discussed our biggest fears and our happy places. We also were lucky enough to see a sloth on our bus ride back to San Jose — a perfect way to close out our time I’m Costa Rica!We are sad to say goodbye to the Pura Vida life, but we know that Belize will be un-Belizeable! Our group has become a family, and we work so well together as a team. We can’t wait to see how we flourish on Long Caye.
Shoutouts:Lily – I’m having so much fun! Love and miss y’all!
AJ-Hello everyone. I hope you don’t miss me too much. I love you. Bye bye
Chase- I’m having a ton of fun. Love y’all
Reid-everything is going great 14 new friends,love you.
Alec-wazzup I’m having so much fun it’s low key dope on the dope meter! Love you!
Bradley-hey everything is well in paradise. Love you all.Eileen- hey having a fun time k peace
Caroline- I love and miss y’all so much! Happy late Father’s Day. Having fun.
CeCe- sup mom & dad love y’all so much I miss y’all happy anniversary and late Father’s Day! Hope Luna’s alive:))) xoxoox
Baxley- hey mom and dad I miss you and the dogs! Bye xoxo
Emily – hey mom and dad! Miss you guys so much and I love y’all!
Liles- hey! I love y’all!! And miss y’all ! Tell evie and Lilly and the rest of the fam I said hello :)))))))
We feel so fortunate to be able to share this amazing experience with such a kindhearted, funny, and mature group of young adults.Until next time,Juliet, Tejas, and Billy
June 15, 2018
¡Hola! We are coming to you live from Costa Rica!! We are having an incredible time here living Pura Vida (the pure life).
After a long journey into San Jose, everyone was a bit tired, but after just a few minutes of everyone being together, they all were quick to get to know their fellow Moondancers. After a delectable lunch, the group got to the hotel and we all took a dip in the jacuzzi. Chase impressed everyone with his ability to swim to the other end of the pool and back without coming up for air. The highlight of the night was playing mafia. Cece, Alec, and Liles proved to be excellent mafiosos, stumping everyone for hours in the game. In our first Moonup, we asked the questions: what is your spirit animal and what do you hope to gain from our trip and Moondance experience. The kids treated the question with maturity and eagerness. After Moonup, we discussed expedition behavior, LOD responsibilities, staying found, and health practices.
We woke up the next morning with the sun and hit the road to continue our adventure. We were all in awe of the Costa Rican countryside. All around us were beautiful green mountains. Our LODs, Reid and Liles set the tone for the day by leading our first morning huddle. During breakfast, Lily was adventurous and bit into an unknown pink and furry fruit, which she discovered for the group was lychee! Our first activity was ziplining through the lush Costa Rican jungle. We went on the longest zip line in Central America and the 4th longest in the world! CeCe impressed us all by fearlessly going upside down on the very first zip line. Meanwhile, AJ sounded like Tarzan as he flew through the jungle yelling at the top of his lungs. Bradley took on Tejas in a zip line race and beat him. After we all finished the zipline, we were visited by some playful monkeys jumping through the trees and congratulating us on our successful mission.
For lunch we enjoyed our first authentic Costa Rican dish, consisting of chicken, rice and beans, pico de Gallo on a bed of fresh cabbage, and plantains. The ride to the beach was filled with literally endless games of Uno and crazy eights. We arrived at our beachside abode, threw on our bathing suits and raced to the beach, only stopping to make time for a game of big booty, where Billy and Tejas showed no mercy and reigned victorious. We got into the water and Chase and Alec showed us all how to body surf. Reid found a fresh coconut and used his survivor man instincts to crack it open. After serving up some up beachside, Caroline discovered a new-found love for coconut. Intrigued iguana spectators cooled off with us as we enjoyed the limitless views of the Pacific Ocean. After our instructors arrived, we all learned how to surf together. The waves were epic and within minutes, we graduated from body surfing to surfing with real boards. Everyone got up! Even as the skies opened up and let a little bit of rain down, that did not stop the group energy. Baxley, Eileen, Liles, and Emily led everyone else back into the water by running in as fast as they could only to be meet by crashing waves. Our all star line up of surfers, Caroline, Lily, Alec, Chase, AJ and Bradley, showed all of us up with their moves. Emily, who was feeling slightly nervous before we hit the waves, ended up conquering huge waves like a pro!
Before dinner back at the hotel, everyone joined in for The Game of Wa where Billy and Chase faced off in the finals which was ultimately settled by a “veggie off” (Chase won). We had another delicious dinner of sausage kabobs, lots of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and pasta. At Moonup the question of the day was “if you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring 3 items, what would you bring?” A lifetime supply of Zaxbys and Chick-fil-a were popular choices, along with bringing our dogs and favorite books. We closed by howling at the moon, then all fell right asleep, dreaming of the day to come!
After a restful night of slumber we all headed to the beach, ready to display our newfound surfing skills. We hit some ‘gnarly’ waves and went “full yolo,” as Baxley would say. The improvement was uncanny; everyone looked like professionals. As we grabbed our boards and headed out of the water, we couldn’t help but take in the picturesque view of the expansive beach and mountains in the background. We hated to say goodbye to the beautiful coastline, but we were all excited for our next adventure on the mainland.
The soundtrack to our next ride was straight from the 70s, to which Chase was groovin’. We all joined in as Bradley led us in singing Country Roads by John Denver, a crowd favorite. Lily came close to another uno win but was out-maneuvered at the last second by Emily. As we neared our jungle eco-lodge we traded our passenger bus for 4×4 taxis. We embarked on a beautiful drive through the Costa Rican mountains climbing into the clouds and passing gorgeous cascades. We arrived at our new abode and had an exquisite lunch at Three Seeds consisting of pork rice, a fresh garden salad, and delicious juices — all farm to table. Very Fresh!! All the food is grown on the property. We tried new teas including spearmint and turmeric. Caroline showed us her inner culinary skills mixing some of the teas creating a sweet potato tasting concoction. After lunch, we headed across the river to start our first day of service. Some of the group helped with transplanting new seedlings for our reforestation project, as some trees were destroyed by the hurricane. Reid was a true arborist showing us how to dig up the young seedlings. Meanwhile, Bradley, Emily, CeCe, AJ, and Baxley put their artistic sides to use while painting tools to be used in the latter half of our service project. Cece had the creative idea to paint multicolored butterflies on one shovel, while AJ and Emily decided to use the splatter paint method on another. After our hard work near the river, we all headed back to the spring fed showers to clean up for dinner. We squeezed in time for an improtu yoga session, where Caroline and Lily connected with their inner zen. Dinner was another culinary delight! We devoured a traditional chicken and vegetable soup, accompanied by housemate garlic biscuits! After having a fun filled dinner, we trekked back to our mountain home. Alec and Bradley showed us a quick dance routine before we began our nightly Moonup. Our LODs, Eileen and AJ, asked us the thought-provoking question of “if you could live out anyone’s life, dead or alive, real or fictional, who would it be?” As always, the group had a lively conversation.
From all of us here in Costa Rica, pura vida!
Juliet, Billy, and Tejas
June 12, 2018
Hey Belize + Costa Rica families! The group has landed safely in San Jose and the trip is off to a great start. We are so excited to hear about their wonderful adventures that are yet to come.