Trip Updates

Belize + Costa Rica 2A • June 28-July 11, 2018

Final Update!

July 11, 2018

WOW. We have just had the best two weeks, filled with adventure, laughter, fun, spontaneous dancing, music, and peanut M&ms.

Brennan brought the group together with her bright personality and contagious laughter. Meg’s passion for life inspired all of us to make the most out of every opportunity. Martha’s positivity helped the group stay grounded. Warren acted as a peer leader and our surfing mentor. Walton was our spontaneous motivator, keeping us on our toes. Winslow kept the group morale high with his spontaneous comments and great humor. Ruby kept us all in good spirits with her “fye” playlist that we enjoyed during our long bus rides. Aidan and his witty comments kept the group laughing. Tommy always was there with his bubbly personality and fire queues. Mason was always a great leader keeping the group on track. Kaylee was always there with a smile when times got tough. Cecelia was always there to talk to no matter what it was. And finally if anyone was up for a challenge or competition, Will was your man. We have never seen a group become so close in such short of a time. Each personality contributed so much to this dynamic. We loved every waking moment with these kids and wish them a wonderful high school experience. We hope to see them all next year!

Love,

Juliet and Billy


The Final Days!

July 11, 2018

We began our river adventure by fueling up with breakfast at the hotel. We then headed to the river, where after a safety talk, we split up into rafts and hit the water. With primary and secondary jungle surrounding us, we rafted down the Pacaure, keeping our eyes out for any signs of the legendary beaver sharks. Tommy and Aidan naturally sat in the front of the raft, acting as fearless leaders as always. We cruised through class I and II rapids like pros, doing some paddle high-fives after the completion of each rapid. After a few hours, we landed on the riverbank and walked up to our home for the night – a beautiful river lodge overlooking the jungle. Walton and Meg were especially excited. We enjoyed a lunch of burritos with pineapple and watermelon, then settled back and broke open decks of cards and Jenga. Brennan and Mason started a game of spit, which has quickly become the favorite game of the trip. Winslow and Kaylee and Cecilia were also very invested in the game, playing multiple rounds to determine the true champion. After a while, the squad took a hike to a big waterfall, where Will and Warren were the first to scale the rocks and jump off into the clear water. Afterwards, we headed back to the lodge and showered and got some much needed down time. We got some hot chocolate and cookies and spent time laying back in the hammocks and listening to music. After a delicious dinner of lots of veggies and chicken, our LODs, Aidan and Brennan, asked us the funny question of “if you could swim in as pool of any food, what would it be?” The answers had us crying laughing and ended the night on a high note. We went to bed tired but happy, and ready for the day to come.

The next morning, we woke up to the sound of rain. The river looked beautiful with mist rising from it, and we enjoyed the view over a breakfast of banana pancakes. Although we were all excited to go rafting, the morning brought us some unexpected surprises. The rain that we woke up to had started in the early hours of the morning and hadn’t stopped all night, making the already high water levels even higher. After assessing the situation, the raft guides consulted with us and we made a group decision to cancel the day of rafting. Every single one of these young adults handled this unexpected schedule change with grace and maturity. We packed up and hiked out of the lodge, taking a route through the rainforest and back onto the road. Even though it was steep and muddy, and there was a river crossing, our kids stepped up to the challenge like champs. By the end we were all laughing, and made it out safely. We got back on the bus and traveled to a small restaurant for lunch, where our rafting guides made us sandwiches and we all got free sodas! After that, it was back to the bus, for our final ride. We jammed to our playlist and gawked at all the amazing views. Walton ended up finishing all the bracelets she had started, proving that you can do anything you set your mind to when you’re being fueled by Reece’s! Martha got lots of good pictures of the mountains with her camera, and kept us entertained with stories along the way. Ruby and Meg made us laugh with their infectious energy and dance moves. We spent some fun time in the pool at the hotel, then went and got all cleaned up for our banquet dinner. We enjoyed our last meal of rice and beans, chicken, salad, and vegetables. For dessert, Cecelia and Walton got cake to celebrate their birthdays (2 days early) and we sang to our soon-to-be 15 year olds! We gave out superlatives for the group, with everyone receiving very prestigious awards. Our final Moonup lasted almost an hour, and we soaked up every minute of our last night together. Our LODs, Kaylee and Warren, asked us what our first impression was of the person to our right and what we were going to take way from this trip. We laughed, cried, hugged, and reminisced of the highlights of our trip.Billy and I cannot say enough good things about this phenomenal group of kids. We truly love them and call every single one of them close friends. It was such a privilege to call one another family for these past two weeks. It was with heavy hearts and lots of happy tears that we hugged each other goodbye this morning. It truly is amazing how a group of strangers can form such an inseparable bond over 14 short days. We hope to see them all again soon, and we would like to thank all of the parents for sharing your children with us for the past two weeks. It’s been an incredible adventure.

 

With love,Juliet and Billy


Surf's Up!

July 9, 2018

Hola from Costa Rica! We have switched from living on island time to the Pura Vida lifestyle!

We had an early start to our first morning in Costa Rica, as we grabbed a quick breakfast buffet at the hotel and were on our way to zip lining. Brennan helped us make a “fire” playlist for our bus ride while Walton continued working on her long line for bracelet making. We arrived in el sanctuario for our canopy tour. We got into our harnesses and hopped in a van for a quick ride up the mountain. We took to the sky’s flying like monkeys through the trees. We reached our final zip line which was the longest in Central America and fourth longest in the world!!!!! We reach a top speed of 55 mph. Will was eager to race and almost took the dub. Juliet and Warren took each other on with Warren taking an early lead, Juliet quickly surpassing him, but then, at the LAST SECOND, Warren flew by like a spider monkey, securing the win. Speaking of monkeys, Winslow and Walton spotted some monkeys spying on us through the trees! After our tour we had a delicious lunch with baked chicken accompanied by rice and a fresh salad. We hopped back on the van for our ride to uvita beach so we could catch some gnarly waves. We arrived and threw our swimmers on and headed to the beach. We got a quick lesson and then applied our new skills. Warren was crushing it, showing us his skills from Cali and taking on huge waves with ease. Tommy was relentless and caught some waves, with Cecelia and Meg right behind him, who both seemed to have an innate ability for shredding! After hanging ten we all headed back to the hotel for a quick swim in the pool and showers. We ate a delicious meal of spaghetti and chicken followed by a great moonup, led by our LODs Winslow and Cecelia. We went to bed dreaming of “las olas”

We woke up with the sun (as all pro surfers do) so we could be the first ones out catching waves. As the sun rose everyone took to crushing the waves. Will was thriving and in his element. He was getting up every time with no problem. We took a quick water break and had some fresh watermelon then hit the waves again. It was Aidan this time showing everyone up. After surfing we went back for a shower and got a delicious breakfast. We hit the road for our transfer to Buenaventura. After a couple hours in the bus we transferred to our 4×4 trucks with one car playing the plane game and the other rocking out to some tunes. We arrived at our new home greeted by Harlow, our new host for the next two days. He showed us around and took us to his sister’s restaurant, Three Seeds. This quickly turned into our absolute favorite place, as all the food is grown on the property and is the epitome of organic deliciousness. We had a wonderful meal on the Savegre country side. We had pork and rice with plantain chips and an incredible fresh salad. Martha was raving over the homemade ranch dressing – yum! After lunch we took advantage of the afternoon Costa Rican rains and played a round of psychiatrist. Mason was the ring leader and the group problem was that we all thought we were the person next to us. We also played some more card games which Cecelia showed out for. Throughout the afternoon, we had been admiring our surroundings at Three a Seeds. All of the walls are covered with paintings from past visitors, where we had fun looking for names we knew and seeing the past Moondance groups’ marks. We grabbed some paintbrushes and all put our handprints on the door for Moondance 2018! Our artistic sides came out as everyone then started painting designs on the walls. We then walked back to our next home for some chill time before dinner, where Mason showed us his inner zen with a great headstand at the temple which we were staying at. Meanwhile, Warren, Ruby, and Walton choreographed a dance and performed it, keeping us all entertained. We headed back to Three Seeds for dinner, which was an amazing soup with the traditional rice and beans and fresh salad as sides. Our moonup for that night was held at the temple, where our LODs Meg and Mason asked the question, “what is a physical scar you have and what is an emotional scare you have?” The answers were thoughtful and sincere. We have come so close together as a group, and truly trust and love each other. It was a great way to end the day. We closed it all off by howling at the moon (we were answered by some tree frogs)

We awoke in our new home called maya luna or the temple. A few of us started our day with a yoga session led by Juliet. Mason found his inner zen mastering a headstand while Aidan got his crow position down. Breakfast was a wonderful traditional costa rican breakfast. We had eggs rice and beans with turmeric and spearmint tea. We also had a fresh homemade smoothie with bananas and almonds from the garden. Tamara also fixed us some Homemade yucca hashbrowns with homemade ketchup as well as slices of starfruit, pineapple, watermelon, and mango. After breakfast we prepped for service and began our 40 minute walk through the valley to the community of El Brujo. We had a wonderful walk taking in the waterfalls and all of the livestock. Walton posed the question of what paradise looked like answering that it must have a lot of couches. We arrived at the community center and split into teams. One group would work on demolition of the church kitchen to revamp it, another group worked on the beautification of the recycling center that the first ever Moondance group built, and the last group helped clear away the grass that had overgrown on the soccer field. Cecelia and Will’s inner artist came out while painting. Warren was hard working on the soccer field helping move loads of grass to the dump site. Martha and mason were a dynamic duo at the kitchen working on demolition. After a quick break and some fruit we switched stations for a few more hours then all gathered on the now clean soccer field. In lieu of the World Cup, we got in a quick game of pick up soccer with all the local kids. Brennan was showing us her skills out on the pitch along with mason and will. After our soccer game we all went back to the community center to give our donations to the kids who were very very grateful for all we had done. For our walk back Juliet, Mason, and Meg decided to get in some exercise and run all the way back to Buenaventura. Upon our arrival, we took a group dip in the river to cool off before lunch. Lunch was again truly incredible; we had tortillas with pork or beef with a multitude of toppings accompanied by a crisp garden salad and fresh guacamole. After lunch, Tamara showed us around her farm where all the food we had been eating was grown. We got to try some very exotic fruits and veggies. Cecelia and tommy even tried one of her peppers which they quickly regretted. Luckily there were some coconuts nearby which we cracked open and drank from. After the farm tour we had our chocolate making class. We heated up the cocoa beans and shelled them. Next, we grounded them into a fine coco powder and added eggs, sugar, flour and butter to make a delicious brownie mix. From there, we headed back for a quick shower and then devoured some delicious homemade pizza. And for desert, you guessed it, our homemade brownies. For moonup, Will and Walton asked us the very thought provoking question of “if you could do one thing and not fail at it what would it be”. We had some wonderful answers then quickly got in bed for our big day the next day.

Our morning began at Three Seeds, where we enjoyed oatmeal with lots of toppings AND homemade cinnamon buns AND fruit AND fresh lemon basil tea! Qué rico! We were sad to say goodbye to our new favorite restaurant, but we had mountains to conquer! We walked back to Maya Luna, then prepped for our waterfall hike. We began a steep ascent up the mountain to get to Toucan Rock, where there was a beautiful waterfall waiting for us. We quickly jumped in to cool off. Here, Harlow brought out balls of natural blue clay, which he had harvested from a spring in the mountain. The clay is basically magical, as it can seemingly cure any problem. Got acne? Try rubbing some of this clay on your face! Sunburn? Blue clay! Itchy bug bites got you down? You guessed it, blue clay! It also works as an exfoliant, which is what we were interested in. We took the clay and rubbed it over our entire bodies, morphing from mere mortals into avatars. Once we were completely blue (even our hair), we then took orange clay and started painting designs on each other. Kaylee helped everyone out by drawing stripes and dots on everyone’s faces, so we could look like true avatars. After taking lots of funny pictures and laughing at our blue hair, we scrubbed the clay off, taking a layer of skin off with it. We felt brand new! We hiked back down, said goodbye to Buenaventura, then got in 4×4 taxis to get back to the road. The views were truly unreal, with pyramidal mountains surrounding us and wildlife all around. Still no sloth sightings, but don’t worry, Martha has her eyes peeled! Brennan, Meg, and Mason’s French-speaking abilities on the car ride kept us entertained. Lunch was another healthy and delicious affair at a restaurant we stopped at along the way. We got fresh fruit smoothies and tried plantain chips with salsa! The rest of our afternoon was spent in the bus, as we transferred from the jungle to the river for the last leg of our journey: rafting! We bumped to lots of good tunes along the way and Warren and Cecelia practiced their poker faces in the many games of kemps. Once we arrived in Turrialba, our LODs, Ruby and Tommy, asked us “what is your happy place?” and “if you could live in any time period, what would it be?”

We can’t wait to see what the river has in store! Pura vida baby!

With love,Juliet and Billy


Beautiful times in Belize!

July 5, 2018

Hey everybody! Our group, which began as 13 strangers, has quickly become a close-knit family here in Belize.

Juliet and I were so eager to get to the airport to meet our new kids. Winslow was the first one in and we kept busy by playing some games of the card game speed. Winslow quickly caught on and became the new master. Once everyone arrived we hopped in the cars and headed to the marina but not after a quick stop to pick up some snacks to satisfy our hunger between dives. We had a good hearty meal before we headed to our new island home, Long Caye. We spent all of lunch trying to decipher the creole signs all over the walls. After lunch we all got on the boat for a quick ride through the ocean blue. We took in all the sights from big cruise ships to thick mangroves. We finally ended up at our little slice of paradise that we will call home for the next couple days. We had a great meal prepared by Nidia, our wonderful chef. After a delicious meal we headed out to the dock for Moonup and talked about what we hope to gain from this trip. We headed to bed so excited for our first dive tomorrow.

Our first full day on Long Caye was full of excitement! We woke with the sun and had an awesome breakfast of fluffy tortillas (aka flap jacks) with jam and eggs. We then had time to fit in a card game of BS (bull shark) and Wa before we went to the dive lodge to get all suited up for the next few days of diving. We went to the dock, where our dive instructors taught us how to assemble our scuba gear. On our walk to the dock, we spotted a giant eagle ray waving at us as it swam by – so cool! We all took it as a good luck sign for our first day of diving. Afterwards, all of our kids hopped in the water to do their swim test, which they all aced. Next up was some well-deserved free time after a packed morning. Warren and Will impressed us with their backflips off the dock, and after conquering some nerves, Meg showed us some front flip action! The rest of the gang chilled out, listened to music, swam, and debated the location of the soon to be revealed Moondance mystery trip (any hints, Hayes?).

After a delicious lunch of tostadas, we all put on sunscreen and headed back to the water to begin step 1 of our journey to become divers – confined water dives! We boated out into a very shallow part of the ocean, where we learned scuba hand signals, and other essential practical skills such as clearing our masks and regulator recovery. As we learned, our audience consisted of lots of long nosed puffer fish and other colorful fish. Mason even found a conch with a baby octopus inside it! Martha was clearly a natural in the water, as she mastered every scuba skill as soon as it was taught. Our first Leaders of the Day (LODs), Will and Walton, led Moonup on the dock under the stars and set the tone for leadership for the rest of the trip.

After a great night’s sleep, we awoke to a wonderful breakfast consisting of bacon and French toast with some fresh fruit. We let our food settle before heading out to the dock and played a few rounds of kimps and BS. Once at the dock we reviewed setting up our gear and jumped in the water. We practiced how to fix calf cramps and towing a tired diver. After our dive, we sat out on the dock and soaked in the sun. Max (our dive master) showed us some Belizean work outs which Warren and Aidan quickly mastered. After a quick swim to cool off, we headed back for a delicious lunch. Nidia fixed us some beef nachos and watermelon slices to satiate our hunger. After lunch we returned to our new favorite spot on the island between a few coconut trees where we had all set up our enos and hammocks. We relaxed and got ready for our afternoon dive, then headed back to the dock. As we got our gear together, we saw a few manta rays swimming around the dock looking for fish. We homed in on our skills, practicing ascents and weight belt removal. We saw some octopuses as well as some Caribbean black squid. After our dive, we headed back to our hammocks and taught everyone about the plane game riddle. A few puzzled hours passed as the kids tried to solve the riddle but to no avail! For dinner we had some outstanding pork chops accompanied with cilantro rice and a salad. Once we had cleared our plates Nidia spoilt us with some brownies before Moonup. We walked out to the dock and Mason and Brennan led a wonderful starlit Moonup which ironically ended with the full moon rising above the sea.

Our fourth day together was a blast! Although we had loved the confined water dives, we were all itching to test out our new scuba skills in open water, which definitely lived up to our expectations! In the morning, we arrived at our dive site and submerged to around 25 feet, where we practiced our skills with giant coral reefs surrounding us. We ended with time to explore the dive site. Everyone was on a high as we surfaced! After 40 minutes of silence underwater, everyone was bursting to discuss what we’d done. The highlights were seeing THREE reef sharks and a sea turtle!!! Truly unbelizeable! During our afternoon dive, we explored a wall of coral filled with fish and even a lobster. We were even lucky enough to see a tarpon, which Meg was very excited about. Cecilia, who was initially having some difficulty completing the full mask flood, ended up performing the skill during this dive and came back up with a big smile on her face! We spent our afternoon relaxing at our hammock hangout, telling stories and reliving the day. The boys played a game of pickup soccer together with their new friend, Jamal. At Moonup, our LODs Meg and Warren asked the question “if you could be any celebrity, who would it be and why?” We switched up locations and did Moonup on the beach, ending with our traditional howling at the moon!

After a long night’s rest and an extra hour of sleep (yay!), we woke up to the smell of Nidia cooking breakfast. We had a filling meal before our first dive of the morning. Our LODs, Aidan and Ruby, led us in a morning huddle to prep us for the day’s activities. After an inspiring quote, we hit open water for a 50ft dive at a site called Que Brada. We pulled out of the dock with “Fortunate Son” blasting from the speaker taking on our last diving day. On the first day of open water diving, Tommy fearlessly was the first to do a seated back roll entry into the water. Today was no exception, and he flipped back into the water without any hesitation! We jumped in the water we saw three tarpons sitting below the boat. We did a few skills then explored a wall that plunged 300ft! We saw a spotted eagle ray soar across the deep blue abyss and also a few trumpet fish. Once we got out of the water we headed back to our little island for lunch. Nidia fixed us debatably our best lunch yet. Everyone was asking for seconds. We had a cilantro tostado with some fresh mango and pineapple.

After lunch we sat out in the sun and played a few games, including spud which Aidan stole the show with. We let our food digest and then hit the water again for our second dive. This site was called the aquarium and it lived up to the name. We saw tons of fish swimming around the site, big and small. We swam another wall dive and saw a moray eel!! Warren and Will finally mastered the art of bubble rings in the water with Ruby almost getting one. We all surfaced as certified open water divers!!! We celebrated on the way back with some tunes and chilled out on the dock after. The boys split up into teams of two and we got in some beach volleyball. Winslow and Mason showed us their natural talent. Before dinner we all sat up in the crow’s nest watching Walton make some of us bracelets all begging to be next in the order. Dinner was once again amazing. Nidia cooked up fresh barracuda caught that morning by Reeves for dinner. We also had some corn, mash potatoes, and a green salad. Dinner was full of lively conversations. We stayed at the table for a long time, with Walton, Ruby, Mason, Tommy and Juliet swapping scary stories at one end. On the other end, Meg kept us laughing with her entertaining tales. Once our bellies were full and after delicious oatmeal raisin cookie we headed out to the dock for another starlit Moonup. Our question tonight was picking the spirit animal of the person to your right. We some great answers anywhere from a honey badger to a tortoise. To signal the end of Moonup we passed the pulse and gave a big loud howl to the moon! We hit our pillows hard that night, tired and content.

For our last day on the island, we went out with a bang! As always, Brennan, Walton, Warren, and Meg woke up for the sunrise and watched it from their hammocks. The morning brought lots of sun and a full day ahead. We logged our dives and then hopped on the boat and went to Half Moon Caye, a world heritage site that is only 10 minutes away from the island. While its proper name is Half Moon Caye, Ruby had dubbed it “coconut island” on our first day, after learning that we would be drinking coconut water while there. When we arrived, the island lived up to its name! We went on a short hike to see red footed booby birds. Along the way, we saw some massive hermit crabs and even a few iguanas. Afterwards, we were given the treat of fresh coconuts! Billy climbed a tree with one of our dive instructors and dropped down a coconut for all of us. We drank the coconut water and even split it open to eat the yummy meat inside. Next up was snorkeling, and we couldn’t have had a better day for it. The visibility was perfect, and the fish were abundant. We dove down to about 20 feet and grabbed queen conch shells. We identified lots of fish, from blue tangs to snapper to wrasse. Then, we all started laughing when Max (our dive instructor) came up holding a sea cucumber! We also saw a starfish, that Martha and Cecelia were eager to hold even Will mustered up the courage to hold it. We returned to Long Caye for lunch, then our first group of fishermen headed out to sea! Brennan was the first to catch a fish, quickly followed by Aidan, who caught a squirrelfish AND a parrotfish! Luck was on our side, as everyone in the boat catching a fish, with Kaylee catching three! Mason threw one of his fish back, but a hungry frigate bird immediately swooped down and snagged it, making us feel like we were watching a real-life episode of Animal Planet. Meanwhile, on the other fishing expedition, Cecelia’s fish was snagged by a barracuda as she was reeling it up! Pretty wild. We closed out our last night on our beloved island with a filling dinner and a final Moonup on the dock. Our LODs, Martha and Winslow, asked the thought provoking questions of “what is your biggest pet peeve?” and “who has influenced you most in your life, and how?” As always, answers ranged from insightful to funny. Warren got lucky enough to spot a shooting star!

Shoutouts from our kids:

Martha – Hey Mom, Dad, and VA. I’m having a great time! I really like diving. I love y’all! See you on the flippity flip!

Ruby- hey family I am having a super fye time¡¡ I miss y’all a lot and diving has been super cool and the people are super fye too ok I love y’all bye¡¡

Brennan- hey mom and dad I miss y’all. Can’t wait to see y’all back home. Having the best time. Tell everyone I miss them

Mason – hey Mom, Dad and Ladds ! Belize was pretty sweet. I think Costa Rica will be too. Love y’all!

Kaylee – hey mom dad and Camille I miss y’all so much but I am having so much fun love y’all

Cecilia- dear family and friends of mine, I am having a good time here. The water is cool. Scuba diving was cool. Hope everyone is having a great time and I can’t wait to see everyone when I return from this trip.

Meg- hey Patrick family it’s your daughter Meg In case you forgot about me. Belize is the sickest place ever and I made some Belize friends. Kyle I went fishing in this cool boat and caught a barracuda. Dad I’m abt to go shred the surfboard and will b thinking of u. I met ppl from riverside that know the siscas. Say hi to the dawgs for me!

Walton- hey fam I’m missing y’all a lot but I am #thriving on this fye trip! Love, your favorite daughter Walton!

Winslow – What is up guys. Back at it again with another fortnite battle royal video. Today we will talk about the trip of Belize. We have been scuba diving and seeing phenomenal fishies and we took a nice glance at a SHARK! Love you from your least favorite child #jokes.

Warren- hello authorities of my life, and Wyatt, this trip so far has been pretty fye as all the kids say it. We have scuba dived, swam wild sharks, I saw a fatty grouper (500lbs so the dive master said) a barracuda followed me for a solid 30 secs when we were snorkeling, we have swam wid wild rays. The food has been pretty good, I hope u read this love ur favorite child warren.

Aidan – Hey guys Im having so much fun here! Scuba diving has been awesome and everyone here has been great. See you guys soon

Tommy- hello family, thank you for letting me go on this trip. It has been so fun scuba diving and swimming. We saw sharks, eels, and massive groupers whole scuba diving. Have fun at home! Tommy.

Will – my leaders are really fun. I met a local kid named Jamal and brought him under my wing, he became very attached to his “best friend will”. Max and Emanuel and rocky were my real role models and have made my trip even better. The food on our island is good and I have the best room. I am currently playing a chica named Brennan who thinks she’s nice in cards. See you soon!!!!

Belize was incredible, and we know that Costa Rica will have great things in store for us. We are having such a fun time with each and every one of these amazing, mature, and funny young adults, and can’t wait to take on the next part of our adventure!

With love,

Juliet and Billy


All Arrive in Belize City

June 28, 2018

Hi Belize + Costa Rica Families,

All students have arrived in Belize and the trip is on its way. We can’t wait to hear more from them!

-Moondance HQ


Students

  • Kaylee
  • Warren
  • Martha
  • Mason
  • Brennan
  • Aidan
  • Walton
  • Winslow
  • Tommy
  • Meg
  • Cecilia
  • Ruby
  • Will

Staff