Anniversary Vacation Trip to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island

For our 2 year anniversary, we decided to take another trip to the Caribbean.  This time we went to Freeport, Bahamas.  It’s located in Grand Bahama Island.  We chose this destination for two reasons:  its secluded beaches (since most tourists’ destination is Nassau) and its diving activities.  Getting here sucked, we had to take 3 planes!  Three!  With a baby.  We brought Seanna along because we just didn’t have the heart to leave her behind.  And besides, we want her to love the water, so what better place to start her love for the sea than this paradise?  The trip was more than worth it.  This place was absolutely beautiful!  Absolutely. Beautiful.

We stayed at the Our Lucaya Reef Village which is adjacent to its sister resort, The Radisson Our Lucaya, which has the really cool shape of a cruise ship.  The resort was nice with very friendly staff, except for the “Concierge/Tour Information” lady that had a face like she had few friends and was mad at the world — with an attitude to match.  We enjoyed our stay here and would come back again.

Anyways, on to the good stuff.  Here’s what we did:

Day 1 — 7.3.2010:

We arrived and did nothing but just hang out.  No pictures or videos.  We literally just hung out by the beach all day and did absolutely nothing, not even eat.  By the time dinner got here, we were starved.  We went to the plaza where all the touristy restaurants and shops are, which is a rock throw distance away.  Man, the food here is super pricey.  Actually make that mad pricey.  A burger runs you about $12-15 bucks, plus a can of soda ($2.50 — no refills), times 2 people, plus tip (15%) — per serving (breakfast, lunch, dinner) = Ca-ching!  If you wanted something better than a burger, you were looking to pay $17 to $32 for an entree plus the extras.   That really adds up.  So, if you’re thinking to visit this area, the all inclusive package should be considered.  We didn’t go that route because we weren’t planning on staying at the resort.

Day 2 — 7.4.2010:

We again stayed at the resort.  There was not much to do but lay at the beach and relax.  Mariana was anxious to do some water activities so Monica went on the Banana boat ride with her.  When they came back I noticed that Mariana was walking very awkward.  Something seemed off about her.  One glimpse at her butt and she had to tell me about the unfortunate events that took place: As she found out, it’s not a good idea to go on the Banana boat ride when you are wet and only wearing a bikini.  At first she thought it was funny that the motion of the rubber boat and the sand rubbing her butt gave her a funny feeling.  “I feel like my butt is exfoliating,” she exclaimed to Monica, laughing, almost with a private joy.  Soon though, as the boat picked up speed, the “exfoliating” turned into “OUCH! My butt feels like it’s being rubbed with sandpaper!”  Which then turned into “AAAaaah!!! It feels like someone is chainsawing my butt!!!”  From the boat you could hear screams of joy, of pain, and what sounded like someone was being gutted by the Texas chainsaw murderer — that was Mari.  Poor Mari.  Her butt was on fire.  It was glowing red — almost.  She had a mad rash.  She needed Neosporin, but we had none.  I tried to convince her to take a picture of it, so I can post it on this blog, but since she said it was “up deep in there”, she declined.  Here at thedownsclan.com we like to be detailed and provide you, our readers, with as much information as possible, sooo… since Mariana did not want a picture of her butt on this post,  in an effort to provide you with a glimpse of what she looked like, here’s an accurate portrayal (except she wasn’t wearing a bow):

After some snorkeling, taking pictures and just laying out doing nothing, we went to plaza to have dinner.  We went back to the hotel and waited for the firework show to start at 10PM.  At 10PM we heard the fireworks go off and so we immediately left our room, got on the elevator, sped down the hall, to the lobby and exited the building.  By this time, the fireworks show was over.  The “Show” lasted approximately 1 minute 30 seconds.  Bummer.  The “Mariana fireworks curse” continues.  If you ever want to see fireworks for the 4th of July, make sure you don’t spend it with Mariana.  She never gets to see them and neither those who are around her.

Here are some pics of our little lady being patriotic (4th of July):

Day 3 — 7.5.2010:

Monica and I got up very early because we had scheduled 2 reef dives and a shark dive.   I had researched for weeks where to best experience sharks in the Bahamas and all sites and reviews let us to UNEXSO.  These guys really run a professional diving organization.  They are well established.  My only complaint about them was that we got outvoted by some rookies that didn’t want to go on the 80-100ft dive to “Theo’s Wreck” (a shipwreck) so we ended up going to a 45 foot dive at a reef instead.  The way I see it, don’t pair up scared noobs with more experienced divers (or at least divers who are up for the challenge).  Scott and Jim were our captains/dive masters and they were very nice and took the time to show you all they had seen underwater.  Below is a quick clip of the first two dives:

After the reef dive, we did a shark dive… and it was awesome…!  I’ll write about this tomorrow…  Part II coming soon…

2009 Year in Review

What a great year! Worthy of being in VH1’s “Best Year Ever” episode. I got promoted at work, bathed in 9 different beaches, become closer with my family, closer with friends, and received the gift of creating life: my little lady, Seanna Sofia.

She’s so beautiful. So adorable. So gentle. Tender and sweet. Just like the flesh that made her and carried her in her womb. I love how she smiles in her sleep, how she opens her mouth wide and closes her eyes when she yawns, how she makes sounds like a kitten when she cries — But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So let me start with the first day, January 1, 2009. Man, what a party! What a crazy youth-spirited reckless night! What loss of control, what disregard for the norm of society. It was fun. To be careless one last time. To sing along songs, out loud; to dance like a high schooler, raising a glass of champagne to love and life, and bring in the new year one last time without second thoughts, toasting along friends and my beloved Monica. Aniceto and Jose, Primo Productions, you are to blame for such madness. And that was it. No more partying like a rockstar. We felt that it was not for us anymore.

As far as getting the new year started, Bianca, Monica and I went snowboarding and man it was about 75% torture and 25% fun. We ended up on the ground so many times that I felt I had bursted an instestine. We hit the ground so hard so many times that even though we had gotten the “All Day” pass until 10PM, by 5PM we couldn’t get up anymore. When we fell, it took us a good 5 minutes of just laying there, motionless, groaning, gathering strength to get back up. The problem was that when we went, even though it was cold, it wasn’t snowing. Instead of snow, there was ice on the slopes. It was basically trying to snowboard on frozen concrete. Looking back, I don’t think it was the determination to master the bunny slope that kept us there, it was plain masochism. This was just plain painful. I wish we could have made it to the regular “grown up” slope though, but we’ll shamefully admit that the Bunny Slope punished us so bad we got scared. After we left, Bianca looked like she had gotten in bar brawl, Monica looked like she had married a wifebeater, and I, well, I still looked good.

In February, we visited our good friends Yazmine and JP in Puerto Rico. We really enjoyed our stay with them and got to visit different parts of the island. I had many times seen the sun at sunset, but never actually sat down to contemplate it and enjoy it. When we visited Dorado, we did exactly that. And it was beautiful. It was an orange reddish circle with a soothing glow, slowly being swallowed by the dark sea and the endless dance of the waves. I wrote about this beautiful experience here. We also got to visit hidden coastlines and experience Puerto Rico underwater; we went Scuba diving in La Parguera, a diving spot where you can supposedly spot whale sharks during their migration. Unfortunately, we were a day late. The guides said they had seen a 40 foot whale shark the day before. What a disappointment 🙁 Puerto Rico was a lot of fun and its waters hold a special place in our heart since that’s where Seanna’s nickname “Sirena” came from. I was going to write about our scuba diving experience but didn’t get to it because Monica surprised me with the news that she was with child. I won’t be able to finish the second half of our Puerto Rico experience, but below are some videos and pictures we took of our dive trip. Although it was nice and full of corals, we were disappointed that there were very little fish. Weird.

Video of Scuba diving. From getting into the water, diving to bottom, seeing the “wall of corals”, to getting back on boat:

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The Days After…


**Click on thumbnail to see full pictures**

Seanna Sofia- my love, my little piece of heaven. God has been graceful to us and given you to us as a blessing. So here we are now, 7 days from when we left the hospital (which have felt like weeks already). We have been truly blessed with the support of our family and friends. We really mean that. I’m about to put a revolving door in our home because we constantly having visitors come over and bless us with their presence, well wishes and gifts. Since we got home from the hospital, the grandmas have been very busy. They have come to help us clean, cook us their secret homemade “post partum” soups and their traditions from Latin America of what to do or not to do the baby or Monica. We have been blessed with gifts from our friends. You have made us feel very blessed and very special and we really appreciate it.

I have said this before on Facebook, and I’ll say it again. When people told us that there would be no sleep, they really meant NO SLEEP! For the first few days, we were on a time warp. This is what a typical cycle looks, assuming that we put her to sleep at 11PM:

1:00 AM – Seanna wakes up

1:05 AM – Feeding begins, which can last 20-30 minutes at a time.

1:35-40 – Baby needs to be burped, which this too can last 10-15 minutes even though she burps herself, yes she burps herself. When she’s done feeding, I lift her up and while she’s on her way to my shoulder, she burps. Cool huh? Well, she doesn’t fully burp everything out, so I have to continue pounding her back until all that gas is out.

1:40 AM — We start the diapers changing process. This is tricky. Sometimes I think that this little angel of ours is going to be an astronaut because she comes equipped with her own propulsion system. Let me just say that loud noises can be heard echoing throughout the room while she’s been changed. Then the bombardment starts. Apparently, she likes to wait until we have changed her to user her propulsion system again, and again. We have actually had to change diapers 3 times in a row and it has taken us up to 30 minutes. In fact, one night Monica was changing her diaper and I fell asleep. About 40 minutes later I woke and Monica was still in the same spot, still changing Seanna’s diaper because she had decided to poop in stages. Oh man, and she fights. We have to hold her legs in the air because she’s going to get it all over herself. This is always an adventure, especially when Mari changes her. Mari was “squirted” with some smelly and wet projectiles twice while changing her (good job my little angel! Score one for daddy!). We have blown a big box of wipes already.

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Delivering the Baby news…

A few of you have expressed interest in knowing the details of how it happened since I didn’t say anything on the first blog entry.  To keep this PG, unfortunately for all of you I am going to have to skip the best part of how the baby happened.  😉

I’ll start from that Sunday afternoon when I went to practice with my dedicated soccer team.  When I returned home as soon as I was turning the knob in the front door, Monica semi opened the door and told me to close my eyes.  “Nice!” I thought to myself.  “I just gotta take a quick shower and I am ready to roll.”  She held my hand and guided me into our bedroom.  I stepped into our love room and I could distinctly smell the roses she had placed all around.   I was ready to open my eyes and put some love music, you know? Some “Let’s get it on” by Marvin Gaye, some R&B, some “Your body is calling me” by R. Kelly, you know, some of that good stuff.  I was smirking, grinning like a teenager about to get some action, thinking, “Man, I must have done something good!”  I could feel my body temperature rising.  But nope, forget about it, I opened my eyes and the first thing I see is a basket full with a stork, baby paraphernalia,  a handmade card, a champagne bottle, 2 Cigars and the golden glow of some twenty candles that did not match Monica’s smile as she told me “We are pregnant!”   My reaction? You can read it here.

Delivering the Baby News

Delivering the Baby News

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Valentine’s Day Getaway in Puerto Rico – Part I

For Valentine’s Day weekend, we went to the enchanted island once again.  We had previously visited back in 2005 when Monica and I had just started going out.  We now returned as a married couple.  On our first trip we visited Old San Juan, El Yunque and the beautiful island of Culebra where we did some serious snorkeling. This time, we went to visit our good friends Yazmine and JP (Juan Pablo) and visit the west side of the island. We were very happy to see them both again. We hadn’t seen them since our wedding, 7 months back. Yazmine and I have been friends for many years and when she moved back we promised her that we would go visit her. It took a few years, but we finally made it and we were very excited! When we arrived, the first thing we did was to go see her at her workplace after JP picked up us from the airport. We wanted to know about everything that went on when she audition for American Idol and made it to Hollywood. After a brief catching up, we went to get some typical Puerto Rican food, Chuleta Can-Can (Fried Pork Chop) but I was disappointed I didn’t see Arroz con Gandules, a typical Puerto Rican cuisine, on the menu. The pork chop was a vicious meal, I was stuffed to the core.  So after this serious meal, we went to the Yaz-JP Hotel and met the rest of the family, their four dogs.   When Yazmine got home from work she got ready for us to go to Old San Juan and have dinner. This is when I realized that while JP has been in PR for years, I, a native of Nicaragua, living in the US, had to introduce him to one of PR’s best liquors: Passoa! Passoa is a passion fruit drink that is very tropical and an exotic taste. Women love it because it doesn’t really taste like alcohol, men love it because women get drunk without knowing and then get wild. So after a drink, we went to DragonFly a chic restaurant to get some sushi. After dinner we returned home and passed out.

JP Yaz and Alex
JP Yaz and Alex

The next day we woke up early and made the hour trip to Crash Boat beach. We drove out early in morning, about 7 or so, to Crash Boat, a beach west of San Juan. First we searched for a bakery to eat some good typical Puerto Rican breakfast but we couldn’t find any. We drove on the expressway but got back on the local roads because Monica wanted to pass out from hunger, but nothing. After an hour, we decided to stop by a McDonalds and get some boring American breakfast platter. There we asked for directions to get to Crash Boat. It turns out that giving directions in Puerto Rico is just like they give directions in my native Nicaragua. No one knows the actual road names, instead the use landmarks and estimates of distance to make a turn. For example, the lady at the McDonald’s gave us the following directions: “You go the right at the corner, then you’re going to go for another 40 minutes and pass three McDonalds and then make a right, then you’ll go to a church and make a left, then when you see a big tree, you take the next left.” I am not exaggerating. When I asked what the name of the roads are, they didn’t know. When I used my iPhone and named the roads (302, 28, etc), they didn’t know even though it was the road in front of them. But, the directions worked.

We made it to the vicinity but got lost after the third Mickey Ds. So, I asked for directions yet again, but to my luck, the guy I asked was a mute. He was mumbling something but we didn’t understand. We felt bad for him because he was trying help, but we had to ask someone else right next to him. And what do you know, he gave us the following directions: “Make a U, go to the church, make a right, continue until you pass a big white house, make a left and continue until you see a small blue sign.” Perfect directions.

As soon as we go there, we parked and ordered some Pinchos from some street vendors. Here you could order pork, beef or chicken on a stick, lathered with BBQ, and topped with a Tostone with garlic. Yummy and cheap! I had been to Crash Boat back in 2003 with my boys (Pato, Bori, Daniel and some Chinese guy) and it was a great time. The beach back then was full of life, it had a diverse group of people, locals, tourists, couples, singles, etc. This time however, it was one HUGE sausage fest. It was like College Spring Break without the chicks. Ok, it had some chicks, but they were jailbait. Not that I was looking for chicks, but I couldn’t help but notice how there were 30 guys to every girl. And there were all young. I guess it must have been either High School skip day or some freshmen college hang out day.

Anyways, I decided to go and do some snorkeling. There was absolutely nothing but white sand. There was an occasional unremarkable fish that followed me around, but that was about it. I ran into some scuba divers that must have been some real amateurs because they were occupying themselves with some small fishes. I guess they were learning. The diving at Crash Boat is just terrible, anyone who thinks it’s great has obviously not fully experience anything other than snorkeling. After about 15 minutes, once I made it to the pier, I made my way back. My uneventful snorkeling was disrupted when two guys jumped from the pier into the water and then started making out next to me. Yeah, awkward. After I made it back to land, we took some pictures but had to move to a more obscure location because the guys were just foaming at the mouth and the young chicks were hating on the hot woman with the hot bikini. Below are some pictures:

The hot wife with the pier in the background
The hot wife with the pier in the background

monica-downs

The hot wife striking a pose

The hot wife striking a pose

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2008 Year in Review


The culmination of 2008… of my whole entire life came down to these words….

“Now that Alex and Monica have given themselves to each other by
solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and
receiving of a ring, I pronounce that they are husband and wife,
in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder.”

Amen.

As everyone knows, on July 4th 2008 I, a simple man, sweating and chocking, with a heart that pounded like an ancient war drum, under the eyes of God, in front of close friends and family, gave my life to my beloved Monica. I gave her my heart and my solemn vow to love her through it all, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish her, until we are parted by death…

My 2008 was defined by those words, those vows that have changed our lives forever. This was the year of dreams, at least for me. “Good guy in love is blessed by marrying precious girl.” That’s my headline for 2008. But it was not all honey, all year. The start of the 2008 was actually quite the opposite. I started the year faced with the adversity of debt, no job and broke. I was feeling very unfulfilled. I had left the mortgage industry after a long run that had gradually slowed down until it took a nasty dive. I decided that since I was going to get married I needed to find a job that was salary, something I had never had before since all my previous jobs where either 100% commission or with a bare salary plus commission, with commission being the bread maker. Problem was that I couldn’t find anything. No door was opening for me… until I got on my knees and prayed and prayed. I prayed earnestly, asking God to open that door for that job that he wanted me to go to. And behold, through a conversation with my boy Dan “The White Man,” he told me there was an opening. I went to an interview and got a job. Whoohoo!

So now I had a job and slowly but surely we started paying down most of our debt. Monica put me on a strict Sadam Hussein style regimen budget of just $10 a week to spend on food and entertainment. I am not exaggerating. Since we had to save for the wedding, she cooked and therefore I had no excuse to go to any restaurant or fast food joint for lunch. Through this readjustment process we started taking a budget course and premarital counseling with my mentor, and cool Deacon Jerry Brown and Kathy, his wife of 43 years. We had some awkward moments at times, especially when he talked about sex. It was like having the talk about the birds and the bees all over again, but from a spiritual perspective. Awkward and funny nonetheless.

So this was our ritual for the first 6 months of the year. Come home, I worked on the wedding website, Monica cooked or worked on the wedding planning, we worked out for the honeymoon, went to counseling or soccer, repeat the next day. I actually lost weight and was down to 141lbs. No worries though, I am back to 155 pounds of fury. So yeah, other than the daily ritual of work and wedding planning, nothing exciting happened. We hardly went out, only for birthdays. Oh! We got our Open Water Certification in preparation to our honeymoon. I will write about this later.

Then came the wedding day. Oh boy, it was perfect. Almost. We had an outdoor wedding at the Glenview Mansion in Rockville Maryland. There were warnings of rain and scattered thunderstorms but we remained hopeful that it was going to stay away from our location. It didn’t. We were scheduled to get married at 6PM and it was raining hard for periods of time. Upstairs in the Groom’s room, we were all having a good old time reminiscing about the younger days of infamy and notoriety and I was constantly being asked “Are you sure man? This is it, there’s no backing out! We can still help you make a run for it!” (Thank you guys for holding me down when I did take you on that offer and tried to jump out the window and make a run for it! Just kidding Beautiful, that never happened… really!) In the bride’s room however, I heard that chaos was going on. Women were fighting each other for mirror space to put on their make up on, elbows flying, bridesmaids were fainting, moms were crying, rumors of a runaway groom were circulating. Ok, so none of that was actually going on, but there was a constant “What do you want us to do? What do you want us to do???” from people regarding moving the ceremony inside because of the rain. The beautiful bride sent a messenger to the groom’s room that she wanted to have it outside but if it was really bad we could move it inside. I then decided to take action and went outside to investigate. The rain hadn’t ceased. However, I said to myself, “If the bride wants an outside wedding, she’ll get an outside wedding even if it means that the best man and the maid of honor will be holding umbrellas over us!”

So the plans continued as they were. Except that at 6PM, the skies cleared. God turned off the faucet in the heavens. So we all hurried into position. And at 615 or so, that woman, who was a blessing to my life, walked down the aisle towards this man, who was awaiting her since forever. I took her hand and melted. I looked at her eyes and I loved her more than all the days combined. And then we became whole. Thanks to God, we had enough time to go through with the ceremony, take a nice carriage ride and take plenty of pictures. Once we were done with all that, it started raining again…

Click the image below to see some of the pictures from the wedding:

Monica and Alex Downs

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Christmas Party


Lauren, our really cool party animal neighbor threw an awesome Holiday party in our clubroom.  Here are some of the pics I took with the new Nikon 50mm 1.8 my beloved wife got me for Christmas..

Click on the Image Below to access the Album:

Monica and I at our Building Christmas Party

Monica and I at our Building Christmas Party