June 20, 2022
Our beloved BCR 1B friends and families,
After an incredible two weeks, we’ve reached the conclusion of our journey through Costa Rica and Belize. Over the past few days, we finished our scuba diving section of the trip and enjoyed some snorkeling and fishing on our last day of activities. As we headed out into the Caribbean Sea towards Silk Caye, the ride was quite choppy. Elise eased everyone’s worries with her excitement and enjoyment of the bumpy ride. When we arrived at Silk Caye, we began snorkeling. Jack showed his skills as a free diver, flipping and twirling below the surface with Thomas by his side. Julia, Patterson, Preston, Margaret, and Elle enjoyed each other’s company in the water, holding hands and snapping photos on Julia’s camera! Mary Allen enjoyed pointing out fish and other sea creatures.
After lunch, Paul and Patterson held a group meeting, during which the group decided that they would forgo the final snorkel to dodge an incoming storm. We boarded the boat and set off on our journey back to shore. We couldn’t end the day so soon, however. Our captain decided to take us to Ray Caye Resort, where he got permission for the group to jump from the high dive and slide on the ocean water slide. The group was absolutely thrilled, and so were we! Topher probably slid and jumped 50 times. He loved it so much. He really cracked us up on the way in. After our stop, it was time to go fishing. Although we didn’t catch anything, Fin and Mason marveled at the prospect of pulling a mysterious sea creature into the boat. Their wonder and excitement drove the rest of the group towards similar feelings.
When we arrived back on shore, everyone was pretty worn out. We headed back to the hostel for showers and a quick nap. After some downtime, we headed into town, where the kids did some shopping and started a game of beach volleyball. Mason was tough to beat on the court. From there, we walked down the beach to our final dinner and banquet. The kids enjoyed milkshakes and daiquiris (virgin, of course), among other fun mocktails. After dinner, Jack played soccer with a little girl on the beach. It was so wholesome. When we headed back to the hostel, we held our final Moonup and gave our end of trip awards. Everyone reminisced on the trip and raved about the connections they’ve made with their fellow friends.
The Helping Hand Award- Mary Allen Wallace
The Strong Man Award- Mason Brunson
Most Likely to be featured in Thomas’ next song- Margaret Sands
The Alarm Clock Award- Fin Tisdale
Most likely to make you smile- Julia Painter
Most likely to say something funny every time he opens his mouth… also most artistic- Topher Mccord
The Angel Award- Preston Linville
Most likely to become a dive master- Elise Rataj
Most likely to have dreadlocks- Elle Grier
Most likely to be confused for Bustin Jieber- Paul Rogers
Most likely to be a Moondance leader- Jack Dobbs
Most likely to be a Moondance leader- Patterson Butler
We could think of endless awards for this group. They were so great and such a joy for us to lead. As we look back on the trip, we understand the saying: “Time flies when you’re having fun.” It truly does. Andrea, Blake, and I will never forget our first Moondance group, and we hold a special place in our hearts for each of these incredible people. We are excited to see what the future holds for each of them!
Thank you so much for sharing these angels with us!!!
Thomas Rowland, Blake Thacher, and Andrea Orazen
Moondance Belize+Costa Rica Session 1B 2022
June 17, 2022
Wow! The past few days have been nothing short of incredible. Each day we have the privilege of being inspired and energized by this amazing group. Since our last update, we’ve made so many great memories. After leaving El Brujo and Buenaventura, we headed to Turrialba for the night, where we relaxed at the bed & breakfast and enjoyed Chinese food for dinner. The next day, we headed to the banks of the Pacuare River to meet our rafting guides.
We traveled about 6 miles down the river, but of course we had to make a few stops along the way. Our first stop was a rock that served as a diving board (don’t worry, no one dove!) into the river. The second stop was a beautiful swimming hole with a sliding rock. The students’ smiles proved their excitement and joy during these moments. Topher was the lead on his boat, commanding his vessel on the best path down the river. Elle, seated right behind Topher, paddled especially hard! Mason showed incredible strength and awareness when Andrea fell out of the raft, as he pulled her up out of the rushing water with ease. As our first day of rafting concluded, we arrived at the Pacuare Eco Lodge for the evening.
Rain dumped on the lodge overnight, and unfortunately, we could not finish the rest of the rafting trip due to the water level. However, we ate breakfast and prepared ourselves for a hike to our lunch and transfer spot. Paul was up early and took a walk to the riverbank, where he enjoyed his book. As we trekked steeply uphill, the energy only increased… Fin has shown to be a great source of energy on the trip, and he helped everyone especially on this hike. We are proud of how considerate and compassionate he is. After lunch, we took a long bus ride back to San Jose and prepared for an early morning flight to Belize City!
On our travel day, we were never bored or lacking entertainment. Margaret, Julia, Elle, Patterson, and Preston started a book club. They competed to see who could read the most on our flights, and who would enjoy their novels most. Preston, Julia, and Margaret danced on our layover in Guatemala. As we boarded our final flight of the day, Jack was quick to inform everyone about the anatomy of the airplane, even explaining how everything works. When we arrived in Placencia, everyone was tired, but we decided it was the perfect time for a pool party. Patterson led (and won) a handstand contest. After the pool party, Margaret and Topher went to the grocery store with Blake and Andrea. They picked out our dinner: burgers, fries, pineapple, and ice cream. Mary Allen was quick to lead the charge doing dishes. She usually helps clean up every day, often unprompted. We’re thankful to always have a helping hand from her.
Today, we began our first day of diving. Julia led an a-cappella group in the back of the bus on the way to the dive center. As we headed out on the boat to Laughing Bird Caye, Fin was totally in his element. Him and Thomas guessed wha kind of boats were passing in the distance. As we arrived to the Caye, those who are already certified enjoyed two awesome dives. Preston quietly helped the certified divers on their initial dives. The rest of the group completed learning modules with their instructors. Topher showed impressive patience and persistence through tough lessons. Meanwhile, Elise found hermit crabs on the beach after completing her dive.
Tomorrow, we begin our first group dives. We are so excited. It has been incredible watching the group grow together. Us trip leaders are filled with joy, and we feel so lucky that we have all these incredible people with us. For now, let the exploration, reflection, and countless giggles continue!
Thomas, Andrea, and Blake
June 13, 2022
We began the third day of our adventure with a quick walk to La Playa Uvita (Uvita Beach), where we met our surf instructor for our final session. Despite the early wake up, the group was eager and excited to get in the water. Mason surfed like a natural, showing poise as he glided from wave to wave. Mary Allen kept a bright smile on her face throughout the session, despite facing some balance challenges. By the end of surfing, Mary Allen was a pro and continued to spread her contagious joy. We packed up our things and enjoyed a quick breakfast before boarding the bus for San Isidro!
On the ride to San Isidro, we enjoyed amazing views accompanied by the beautiful voices of the group while they sang along to their favorite tunes. We stopped at Bazooka’s, where we enjoyed tasty food and delicious pineapple juice. Jack was particularly fond of the juice, drinking his juice in about three gulps! This bunch of ticos and ticas LOVE their pineapple. Then we departed from Bazookas and met our next transfer headed for El Brujo. On the two-hour ride to El Brujo, most of the group packed into the back of a Land Cruiser. The rest of us sat in the back of a pickup, where we headed up the mountain, into the clouds, and away from civilization. There wasn’t a moment during the entire ride that Elise wasn’t smiling from ear to ear. Her wonder and joy in that moment was truly beautiful and inspiring.
We arrived to El Brujo and were greeted by our amazing guide and his sidekick. Then we started our adventure planting Cacao seeds with guitar entertainment from Thomas, and finally a cooking class that went right into a delicious dinner of papoosa, rice, beans, and salad. The next morning, we woke up at the crack of dawn to get started on our first day of service in the village. We took a 45-minute hike to the heart of El Brujo where Preston and Elle were eager to start painting the walls of the community center. We ended the night with Topher’s hilarious stories that kept the entire group laughing. He’s quite the comic!
The next two days in El Brujo were more than we could ever ask for. The group spent the days learning new skills and learning the culture around us, all while becoming closer than ever. During our service projects, Patterson led the pack, leading by example. We’ve found her to lead by example quite often. As we finished our service in El Brujo, we celebrated with a game of soccer with the local children before eating lunch. Julia was a star on the soccer field, playing with tenacity and passion throughout the game. Elle and Margaret dived even deeper into the cultural immersion and made it their mission to talk to all the local kids on the soccer field. We are so lucky to have such a curious and passionate bunch!
When we arrived back at Buenaventura, we relaxed for a while before commencing our chocolate and brownie making course. Paul initiated a game of chess with the boys and cheered them on as they had speed chess competitions until our class. Each of the students played an important role in the production of delicious brownies made from local cacao. Fin was particularly quick when cracking cacao!
As we finish our time here at Buenaventura, we are excited for the days ahead. With rafting and scuba diving ahead of us, we have so much to look forward to.
Thomas, Andrea, and Blake
June 9, 2022
It was an exciting first day for our BCR 1B group! We camped out at a little restaurant just outside of customs and little by little the group came together! Immediately we knew this group was going to be awesome because of their smiles although they were exhausted from the long day of travel to Costa Rica. We took a quick bus ride to our hotel for the night and started to unload our bags. Fin took the initiative and helped unpack everything. It was a huge help. We settled into the uniquely homey hotel and then took a dip in the pool! Topher stunned us all when he told us about his t-shirt making talents! After swimming we all took a shower and headed to dinner which was so delicious. It was finally time for the most important time of the day… Moonup. We found a perfect spot by the pool and shared our favorite moments from the day. We announced our leaders of the day for day two of zip lining and surfing!!! Our first LOD’s were Patterson and Mason. They took this great responsibility with pride and excitement. Everyone was tired, so we snuck off to bed early to ensure a successful day ahead.
The group started day two with an early wake-up and a filling breakfast. Despite the early rise, everyone was filled with energy. Shortly after everyone had their stuff packed up, our LOD’s briefed everyone on what was happening today and then we were on the road to zip lining. It was a two hour bus ride full of beautiful views. Margaret and Mary Allen dove into the books while most everyone else rested their eyes. On our way to zip lining we ran into some traffic but of course our resilient group kept the conversation going and Elise kindly shared some of her snacks. Upon arrival, Julia and Elle were anxiously awaiting getting on that first zip line! The group had a great time making our way down the rainforest and had some amazing views too! On one zip lines Preston was brave enough to go upsides down with the help of the instructors. Paul practiced his Spanish speaking with the instructors. We settled down for lunch and were on our way to the next hotel to surf. The group could not be more excited and thankful!
When we arrived for the surf lesson in Uvita, the rain started to come down but our LOD’s and our awesome outfitters kept morale high until we got into the water. Jack was an immediate pro at riding the waves and encouraged everyone else to keep working at standing up. By the end of the surf lesson, everyone had gotten up on the boards and ridden a wave like an expert! After a quick pool party to celebrate our success with surfing, everyone showered, enjoyed a delicious meal, and gathered for Moonup.
Tomorrow morning, we will hone our surfing skills before we head into El Brujo to start our community service.
Thomas, Blake, and Andrea
June 7, 2022
Hello Belize + Costa Rica Families!
We just heard from our leaders that the group has landed safely in San Jose. The trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure.
Please remember our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting up to three trip updates throughout the next couple of weeks! This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!