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Costa Rica 3 • July 13-July 26, 2019

Final Update!

July 26, 2019

¡Buenos dias (one last time) from Costa Rica!  Our final few days in this beautiful country served as the perfect cap to an incredible two-week adventure.  After waking up at the second rafting campsite, we were treated to a delicious breakfast of eggs, fruit, and the group’s favorite: rice and beans.  We then packed up and headed towards the Cahuita area for a few days on the beach.  Before arriving at the beach, we stopped at a sloth sanctuary, where we met a number of rescued two-toed sloths and three-toed sloths and learned about the unique animals.  Did you know sloths’ closest relatives in the animal kingdom are anteaters and armadillos?  After spending time with the sloths, we headed toward the beach, where we splashed around in the waves and took in the sun.  After a few hours and a delicious pasta salad lunch, we loaded up in the van and drove to our hotel, where we settled in, played some soccer on the beach, cleaned up, and prepared for dinner.  We drove to a nearby restaurant for a hearty dinner of chicken, fish, or veggies with rice and beans and fried plantains along with smoothies.  After dinner, we returned to our hotel for a moonup led by leaders of the day, Louise Gray and Kate, during which we discussed what our experiences the past two weeks have taught us.  It was incredible to see how we can learn so much more about ourselves and living our best lives through service and adventure.


The next morning, we woke up, ate a quick breakfast of eggs, fruit, toast, and rice and beans, and we drove to Cahuita National Park for a hike through the trees along the beach.  Along the way, we looked for monkeys and sloths.  Finally, we stopped to swim and hang out on the beach.  In the water, Parker, Smith, Elizabeth, and Lauren had chicken fights with each other, while Kate and Sophia found a plethora of live sand dollars.  We then played a large group game of Star, and Will proved himself a master.  After spending a great deal of time in the water, we returned to the shore, where we buried parker up to his neck and built him a new body made of sand, complete with a six-pack.  The morning flew by, and after several hours, we realized it was to walk back across the beach and head to the small oceanside town of Puerto Viejo for lunch and shopping.  Smith found a one-of-a-kind boxing helmet he simply could not pass up, while Lauren stopped at a jewelry stand for some new bling.  At lunchtime, we ate pizza cones.  Never heard of them? Imagine an ice cream cone, except the cone is a pizza crust and the ice cream is a mixture of cheese, red sauce, and toppings such as veggies or pepperoni.  This unique and simple dish was an instant hit.  After lunch, we arrived at a beautiful beach with black sand for surfing lessons.  Will, already an experienced surfer, had a ball riding wave after wave, while Ava, Louise Gray, and Smith, each one a natural, picked the sport up very quickly and had a ball doing so.  When taking breaks from surfing, Lauren and Elizabeth messed around in the waves.  Finally, as the sun began to set, our lesson ended, and our surfing instructors prepared us a late-afternoon snack of bananas, pineapples, and freshly-picked coconuts which they opened in front of us so we could enjoy the milk and meat inside.  Upon returning to our hotel to prepare for dinner, a series of card games broke out, and Jess, Kate, and Sophia, the group’s card sharks, dominated using their quickness and tenacity.  We enjoyed pasta, pizza, and more smoothies for dinner as well as a lively conversation, during which Elizabeth emerged as a true comedian.  At the end of the night, we had a moonup in the on the beach to the sound of waves crashing on the shore.


On the last morning of the trip, we woke up and enjoyed another delicious breakfast of eggs, toast, fruit, and our final plate of rice and beans.  We then headed to the beach for another day of surfing.  A special, joyful energy was in the air that morning, as it was Kate’s 15th birthday!  After breakfast, students tore it up and built on the surfing skills they gained the day before.  Aside from surfing, we had tons of fun swimming in the waves and enjoying the view of a scenic island just offshore.  Meanwhile, on the beach, it was the birthday girl’s turn to be buried in the sand, Jess and Sophia built her a mermaid body out of sand.  The day’s surfing lesson ended late in the morning, and it was time to finish packing, eat lunch, and hit the road for San Jose.  In the middle the long car ride, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up supplies for our last dinner, which we decided to cook ourselves.  The group opted for a meal of mac and cheese, chicken wings, grilled cheese, and fries.  Upon our arrival at the hotel, we cooked, played more cards, and ate dinner.  Following dinner, we presented Kate with her birthday cake (HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATE!!!!!) and had our final moonup, during which we discussed what we would miss the most from our two weeks.  It was truly touching to see the impact our time in Costa Rica had on everyone in the group.  We went to bed after moonup and prepared for an early rise the next morning.


This morning, we awoke and headed to the airport for to say goodbye and go home.  At this point, all students are on their flights and will soon be home.  We are confident each student will return home with a plethora of happy and meaningful memories of our fun and impactful time in Costa Rica.  Furthermore, each and every one of us learned and grew as people along the way.  The past two weeks were truly a blast, and we were blessed with an incredible group of young people with whom to spend them.  Each student brought his or her own unique personality to contribute to our fun group dynamic and forge its enthusiastic and joyful spirit.  From hiking, to service, to rafting, to surfing and all the time in between, it was a pleasure to have each and every student on our Costa Rica Adventure.  Thank you so much to all parents for sharing your wonderful kids with us, and thank you to every student for making this trip the awesome journey that it was.  Together, we embodied the “Pura Vida” spirit that makes life so special.


For one last time, ¡Pura Vida!

  • Lucy and Jack

Rafting on the River!

July 24, 2019

¡Buenas dias!  Our incredible two-day rafting excursion on the Pacuare River flew by.  After saying goodbye to Mollejones, we arrived at the river and met our rafting guides, Manuel and Abel, as well as our kayak-riding safety support, Walter.  After a safety briefing, we loaded into two rafts and set off down the Pacuare.  The scenery was incredible; imagine floating down murky, mint green water, past large, gray, oddly shaped rocks, while weaving through the mountains and cliffs of the thick and lush jungle.  Along the way, we heard and saw exotic birds such as the tiger heron, the sunbittern egret, and even the toucan along the banks and in the air.  Shortly after embarkment, we hit a series of quick and fun rapids.  A few lucky students such as Will, Parker, Kate and Ava had the chance to ride on a duckie, which is an inflatable kayak.  Along the way, when we reached deeper sections of the river, the guides would allow the chance to swim and jump off rocks, an opportunity that not a single student passed up.  After several hours of fun class 2 and class 3 rapids, we arrived at our campsite for the night, sitting in a beautiful riverside clearing and complete with a kitchen area and an upstairs loft.  After settling in, we went on a hike to a nearby waterfall and swimming hole with the raft guides where we spent time splashing around and enjoying the tranquil jungle scenery.  We then returned to our campsite and rested.  Jess, Louise Gray, and Lauren relaxed and read in the hammocks, while others played card games and joked around on the couches.  In the middle of the afternoon, Kate, Louise Gray, Jess, and Sophia were kind enough to cook the rest of the group delicious empanadas.  At dinnertime, we sat down for a delicious platter of chicken and mushroom sauce, veggies, and of course, rice and beans.  After dinner, we returned to the loft, where we played tongues, a variation of spoons, looked for wildlife with our flashlights from the loft, and had Moonup.  We then went to bed to the sounds of the rainforest at night and the raindrops hitting the tin and canvas shelters above our tents.


The next morning, we woke up and ate breakfast, which began with a presentation of birthday pancakes for Elizabeth – she’s 15! We then prepared for our second day of rafting.  Soon after embarking, we hit a series of class 3 and class 3+ rapids.  We then reached our first class four rapids of the day, Upper and Lower Graveyard.  While the water was certainly rowdy, both boats handled them masterfully, and all rafters had a blast doing it.  After several hours of floating through gorgeous landscapes such as riverside slopes reaching into the clouds and a series of extremely unique rock formations, we stopped at the property of an indigenous family for lunch.  As the guides prepared lunch under a thatched roof, we messed around in a swimming hole, riding the current, and dunking our heads under the teal water.  We held a rock-stacking competition, in which teams of students aimed to create the tallest cairns.  After 15 minutes of building, Elizabeth, Sophia, and Kate were declared winners, and it was time for lunch.  When lunch was over, we splashed around some more in the swimming hole and then set off for the final portion of our float.  Once we were through our last class four of the day, we entered a stunning canyon, where the gray stone walls rose high into the air on both sides.  Because the water was slow and deep at this point, we were able to get out of the raft and swim through the quiet, shady canyon.  The water remained relatively calm for the rest of the float, so Smith and Parker to partner up in his duckie while he got into a raft.  Just after floating past a massive Chiquita Banana plantation, we arrived at our second campsite and quickly began a game of keep-away with the soccer ball.  Soon after arriving, we saw a mother sloth sleeping in a branch high above us at our campsite.  After hours of cards, soccer, and relaxation, it was time for a delicious dinner of beef, chicken, and, you guessed it, rice and beans (don’t worry, this seemingly simple dish never gets old), followed by the presentation of Elizabeth’s birthday cake.  We played card games such as Spit and had Moonup after dinner, and then went to bed.  Just before falling asleep, we had a spontaneous ensemble of howls at the moon started by Smith, Parker, and Will.  Our two-days on the river were an absolute blast, and we look forward to our time on the beach over the next few days.

A Meaningful Service in Mollejones!

July 21, 2019

Hola from Mollejones!

We have spent the last three days working in the charming town of Mollejones and now we are en-route to the Pacuare river to begin rafting! Our time spent in Mollejones was well spent, learning lots about the culture, making new friends and working hard on our service projects. Our experience in Mollejones featured a number of different activities that helped us immerse in the local culture. We spent a great deal of time doing service work such as sanding furniture and painting houses, but we still found time to play soccer, make bread, and dance with the locals. Every minute of it was an incredible experience!

We started our time off in Mollejones by repainting a house for a family of four. The group amazed us by their determination to finish the project, getting the entire outside section finished before lunch! Parker and Smith came out strong, as they dedicated themselves to painting the two biggest outside walls with a paint roller, setting the pace for the day. A local family hosted us for lunch, serving up a delicious mark of rice, beans, potatoes, and pork. Our beloved speaker, Mary Sue, pumped the jams keeping us motivated all day. With the music blasting, Kate got in the zone, paying close attention to detail as she painted the window frames, taking special care to ensure every spot was covered without allowing any paint to get onto the windows. Meanwhile, Ava painted the fence in front of the house. After a long while of painting, Elizabeth and Sophia decided the green paint looked so good on the house that they should add some to their faces. Soon, many of us had paint on our faces. After a hard day of work, we returned to our campsite and relaxed before dinner. Following dinner, we had a fun Moonup and went to bed.

On our second day of service, we returned to a house on which other Moondance groups had already begun extensive work with the goal of finishing the job. We quickly got to work painting, varnishing, and working on furniture. Will, Parker, and Smith worked all day on a desk sanding it and then adding finish to it.  Elizabeth and Lauren painted a door that was to be added to one of the kid’s rooms. Louise Gray, Sophia, Ava, meanwhile, and others painted the other kid’s room. After a long day of working and putting a deep dent in the work remaining on the house, we returned to our campsite. Late in the afternoon, we played a fun game of pick-up soccer with some locals. Throughout the game, an excited energy was in the air as everyone darted up and down the field. Afterwards, we ate dinner, Mooned-up, and went to bed.

On our final day of service, we returned to the house we worked on the day before to put on the finishing touches. Sophia and Kate worked hard on painting the window frames while Ava varnished the main room of the house and Louise Gray and Jess sanded and added finish to a shelf. After several hours of hard work, the house was finished! Over the summer, that house went from a single-bedroom house shared by a family of six to a three-bedroom house painted a vibrant orange, all thanks to the hard work of Moondance students! After thanking the family for welcoming us into their home, we parted ways and returned to our campsite for a well-deserved nap and lunch. After eating lunch, we visited a local home, where a kind woman taught us her family’s recipe for bread. We then proceeded to make bread-based pastries of all kinds, amusing from empanadas to completely original creations like Sophia’s caramel-filled star Kate’s cloud-shaped empanada. We played more soccer after making bread and were Delores to be joined by Miso and his son, who were passing by, on the way. Afterwards, we enjoyed a presentation of dances put on by the children of Mollejones, who invited us to join them for some dances such as “El Torito” (The Little Bull) and even gave us traditional clothes to wear as we danced. We then taught them to dance the “Cotton-Eyed Joe”. Following a presentation on the history of Mollejones, and series of games with the locals, we sat down for dinner of beef stew with the local children. We then played more games. It was incredible to see our Moondance group and the children and teens of Mollejones become close friends in such a short time. After a difficult goodbye, we had a deeper Moonup, during which we discussed important people to us as well as our thoughts and feelings following our three days of service. After some time of reflection, we played mafia and went to bed in preparation for our overnight rafting trip starting the next day. We are truly grateful for our incredible time in the beautiful and friendly town of Mollejones and for the opportunity to make a difference in the community, and we look forward to rafting and everything else Costa Rica has to offer for us.

¡Pura Vida!

Lucy and Jack

Adventures from Costa Rica!

July 18, 2019

¡Pura vida from Costa Rica! Our time here has been a blast!  After everyone in the Costa Rica gang arrived safely at the airport in San Jose, we loaded in the bus, and drove through the city to where we were to stay for the night.  Once we arrived, we played a number of games including soccer and Sardines and got to know each other. Dinner on the first night was Monster Pizza, which earns its name from the humongous slices it serves.  Following dinner, we had our first Moonup, a nightly ritual during which we look back on the day and share a bit about ourselves.  Moonup is a unique opportunity to better understand ourselves and everyone else in the group better.  We kicked off our first Moonup by selecting our first leaders of the day, Louise Gray and Will, and sharing why we chose to be here in Costa Rica this summer.  When everyone finished sharing, we went to bed, tired from a busy day of travelling and getting to know our new environment.


Our first morning in Costa Rica, we awoke to a breakfast of rice, beans, eggs, pineapple, watermelon, and orange juice prepared by our friendly local guide, Chris.  We then loaded into our bus and drove back through San Jose and into the mountains outside the city, stopping along the way for some cultural education at the Cathedral of Los Angeles, which is the most important church in Costa Rica.  After our drive through the mountains, we arrived to explore the jungle.  Over the next couple of hours, we familiarized ourselves with the Costa Rican ecosystem in the best way possible, hiking, rappelling, and zipping through the rain and the exotic sauna of the appropriately named rainforest.  Will embraced the opportunity by zipping upside-down when permitted, while Jess proved herself and expert on the rocks, moving quickly and excitedly down the rushing waterfalls.  Finally, at the end of the day, we returned to our bus, thanked our guides, and drove to our next hostel, where we enjoyed a dinner of tilapia, veggies, and mashed potatoes.  Although Elizabeth swore avidly against squash before dinner, she apprehensively tried the indigenous water squash and loved it, much to her surprise.  After dinner, we prepared for our next excursion, a three-day backpacking trip to our community service site, played our first of many games of “Psychiatrist,” Moonup’d, and went to bed, but not before the girls gave Parker, Smith, and Will some great hair do’s.


The next morning, we loaded into the bus and drove to the trailhead for three days of exploring the mountains of Costa Rica.  Before setting off, we met another local, Miso, our guide through the jungles and farmland where we will complete the service portion of our trip.  Shortly after setting off, Chris and Miso showed us coffee beans growing on the plants.  Much to our surprise, they are a ripe green color instead of the brown color we see at home after they are roasted!  We also saw sugar canes and bananas growing in fields surrounding the hiking trail, as well as a myriad of bright and uniquely-shaped flowers.  After crossing a bridge, we stopped for lunch before the long ascent up a mountain to our campsite.  The location was beautiful; we ate on a log on top of a small cascade between two tall rocks covered in bright green moss and fauna.  When we finished lunch, we set off up the hill.  Throughout the afternoon, we worked our way up the hill, admiring the gorgeous scenery along the way.  After we reached our campsite we were all excited to see a vacant soccer field!  Because a soccer field was available, we broke into teams of two and played “World Cup,” which Smith and Parker, representing Kazakhstan, won handily.  We spent the next few hours relaxing after our long day while Smith, Louise Gray, and Elizabeth helped Chris prepare a delicious meal of spaghetti Bolognese.  After dinner, we had a fun Moonup and played more “Psychiatrist” as well as “Night at the Museum” and then went to bed.


We rose for our second day of hiking and set off quickly.  After hiking up and down a series of rolling hills, we arrived at the entrance to the jungle.  While the downhill hike through the jungle was steep and muddy, this was a unique chance to explore the unbridled wilderness of Costa Rica. At the bottom of the hill, we arrived at a watering hole, where the entire group took the opportunity to splash around and blow off some steam.  Louise Gray, Parker, Will, Smith, and Elizabeth took the chance to explore upstream.  After swimming for some time, as we were packing up to continue our journey, some local children hiking back from school stopped to say hello, and quickly an exchange of Spanish phrases and dance moves ensued.  We continued our hike after the children moved on, and quickly reached our campsite.  At the campsite, Chris treated everyone to a cooking class, during which we learned to cook empanadas.  Following Chris’ cooking lesson was an empanada cook-off.  All students made several empanadas, some going as far as to draw designs into the corn tortilla.  During the competition, Ava and Louise Gray teamed up to write the words “Pura” and “Vida” on their respective empanadas.  This is clever because “Pura vida”, meaning “Pure life”, is the Costa Rican national motto, as well as a common saying that expresses positive vibes in a number of different contexts.  While Sophia’s cat design and Kate’s Moondance logo both presented strong candidates, the judges, Miso, Chris, and Mamo, a third guide, chose Louise Gray’s empanada, which featured the word “vida”, the Spanish word for “life” as the winner.  After cooking class, we spent some time relaxing and then ate a delicious dinner of chicken, rice, veggies, and mushroom sauce.  Finally, when dinner was over, we sat down for a Moonup led by our leaders of the day, Kate and Sophia, and went to bed.


We woke up to a bright and sunny morning for our final day of hiking.  Shortly after setting off, Miso led us through a series of cattle pastures alongside the Pacuare River.  Around lunchtime, we arrived at a beautiful swimming hole featuring a series of small waterfalls.  We spent a great deal of time sitting beneath the waterfalls, riding the current, and sitting in more still water.  After finishing, we set off uphill for the most challenging portion of our backpacking excursion.  While the trail was steep and muddy, the sun was out and the scenery was beautiful.  Different shades of green were everywhere to be seen.  Finally, after what felt like hours, we settled in, and relaxed while Chris cooked us yucca.  After a dinner of spaghetti, we Moonup’d and went to bed.  Our time in beautiful Costa Rica has been nothing short of an adventure thus far, and we look forward to the opportunity to make a difference through service in over the next few days.


And now for some shoutouts:

Hey mom and dad just finished hiking starting service tomorrow can’t wait to start surfing and can’t wait to see you guys love you -Will.

Hey from Costa Rica !! We hiked for three days straight and my body aches but it was so so so gorgeous, we start service tomorrow and I’m so excited ! See y’all soon:) love you Lo

Hola! We hiked a lot and then we just got to the location where we will start service tomorrow. I’m so pumped for the rest of the time! Ur groovy!  Peace out fam ly!!!!!!!!!!! See u l8er Beans

Hi! I am still having a blast and love my group so much! We have done so much and it’s only been 4 days. Lots of hiking and some waterfall climbing, plus zip lining. Love you guys! <3 Kate

Hello family! We’ve been hiking for 3 days! I’m having so much fun and have made many friends, The food is very good and we made empanadas yesterday! SO GOOD!!! Tomorrow we are doing service, I’m really excited. Love you guys, see you when I get home!! -Sophia

Hola familia! I miss y’all so much!! I love this country so much and I never want to leave. My group is amazing and my leaders are awesome. Tell Hadley that GT Dave has not been forgotten while here. Tomorrow we start service here in. Give Woon and Bubba a hug for me, see you soon-Jessica

Hey mom and Dad I’m missing y’all so much and I hope you guys are having a great time in Europe and I hope Spencer is having fun at the house while we are outta the country. We had a deadly hike today but it was worth it because the view was amazing. Anyway I miss you guys but I’m having so much fun and love my group. -Parker

Hey mom and dad missing you love you. I’m having so much fun we just got to another camp site. Me and Parker are sleeping in our hammocks so I’ll let you know how those work out. We just finished a hike that was tough and also very fun. Tomorrow we are starting our community service. The views are amazing here taking lots of pics love you guys – Smith

Hey mom and dad, I miss y’all so much!! I hope you guys are not missing me and Alex too much, because I sure miss you! I’m having so much fun with my group, everyone is so nice and Costa Rica is so beautiful! Give the dogs a hug for me and please don’t give Millie away yet! Anyways I love you guys so much and will be home before you know it! Also send Alex a letter and let him know I miss him too! -Ava

Hola parents!! We just finished our 3rd (and last) day of hiking! My body is super sore but on a positive note it was definitely the most beautiful hike I’ve ever taken. Miss you guys and Siggie, Fern, and Ebi so much- give them both hugs for me 🙂 love y’all so much, LG

Safe Arrival into San Jose

July 13, 2019

All students and leaders have arrived in Costa Rica.


We can’t wait to hear all about their adventures!
-Moondance HQ


  • Ava
  • Elizabeth
  • Jessica
  • Kate
  • Lauren
  • Parker
  • Louise Gray
  • Smith
  • Sophia
  • Will