Several years ago when we first started thinking about moving to Latin America, Nicaragua was high on our list of places. In fact, we began to refer to the concept of living in Latin America for a time as our Nicaragua Plan. So while we didn't end up living in Nicaragua, we still thought it would be fun to take a trip there to see what we were missing.

We largely ended up living in Guatemala by chance (which is the way things like this often work) because we happened to find jobs here and a city that we wanted to live in. But as noted above it could have been Nicaragua for us instead so we spent much of our time there asking the question "would we have been able to live with this?"

The first item in this question category was answered nearly as soon as we landed and saw the propaganda related to Nicaragua's upcoming presidential election. There is certainly a lot of election propaganda in Guatemala, but the Nicaraguan version stood out as it was all promoting the works of (current president) Daniel Ortega. We didn't see a single poster, rally, t-shirt or anything related to an opposition candidate.

Guatemala certainly has its problems in the areas of democracy and governance, but Nicaragua seems is in another category with Ortega's domination of the political sphere. This (and the fact that he decided to shut down several NGOs when we were thinking about where to move) are why we don't live in Nicaragua. We were worried that this unstable environment could cause a problem if we worked for non-profits in the country. Oh, and no one offered us a job there... But none of that stopped us from taking a short trip there.

Since Jed has spent some time in southern Nicaragua, during his time living in Costa Rica, we decided to start in the north part of the country in Leon. It was a good place to start since as a university and cultural capital, Leon is very much a Nicaraguan parallel to our home of Xela in Guatemala. There are, however, a few differences of note between the two cities.

On the minus side, Leon is a lot hotter, a little more rundown (some of this due to the adverse effects of tropical humidity), and a little less scenic (no mountain views). On the plus side, Leon is much closer to the beach, has colder beer (which is a necessity in the heat), and has a lot more pretty churches. Well, I guess Jack didn't think the extra churches were such a bonus:

Taking advantage of Leon's proximity to the beach, we headed off for a day on the Pacific ocean and Jack's first time in that body of water. He was a little bit more excited about that:

After that, since no gringo's trip to Nicaragua would be complete without it, we headed down south to the tourist hub Grenada. Grenada is the equivalent of Antigua, Guatemala: good architecture, good tourist infrastructure, and population of foreigners. On the plus side, Grenada is a little touristy than Antigua, which makes it feel a little more authentic. On the minus side, it is more run down (that darn tropical humidity again). And it's a draw on the scenery, while Antigua is surrounded by stunning volcanoes, Granada has some smaller volcanoes and Lake Nicaragua:

Other factors that we ran down as part of the Nicaragua/Guatemala comparison include:
- sports: they play baseball in Nicaragua as opposed to only soccer in Guatemala
- cost: while both are relatively inexpensive countries, the dollar seems to go a little bit farther in Nicaragua
- rum: this is a draw as Flor de Caña and Botran are both world class brands
- culture: Guatemala has a vibrant indigenous culture, which is non-existent in Nicaragua

All in all, while we enjoyed visiting Nicaragua, we're happy that we live in Guatemala- though Jack's still contemplating his preference:

Firsts for Jack

As any parent will tell you, babies grow up quickly. Especially in the first few months of life there are lots of changes, newly acquired skills, and the like. Despite my mother's strong encouragement, we aren't keeping a baby book for Jack. Such a book just seems so 20th century- what is he really going to do with a book that lists his first* food? 21st century mechanisms -like photos, videos, and yes even blog posts- seem so much more relevant (not mention a heck of a lot easier).

As such, on his 6-month birthday (monthday?), here's a recounting of some recent firsts for Jack. Like any maturing young man, these fall into the vital areas of passion, commitment, heartbreak, and physical prowess.

In Latin America, most passion falls into one category. No, not love (that's just in the movies): futbol (or soccer for us). Latin Americans, Guatemalans included, are fanatically passionate about their futbol teams. In fact, one the common slogans for the local futbol team in Xela is: Unidos por la pasión del futbol (united by the passion for futbol). This slogan is plastered on t-shirts, all over the team's stadium, and other places around town.

At the ripe old age of 6-months, we thought it was time that Jack was introduced to local passion: the Superchivos. (It also didn't hurt that Jed is covering the team for the local culture and nightlife magazine so he had to go to the game anyway). While the literal translation of the team's name is the Super Goats, colloquially it is also translates as Super Cool. The team is very popular locally and draws (relatively) large crowds for games (see Jed's recent article on the team for more on this:

While Jack seemed more interested in watching the crowd than the action on the field (to be fair his long distance vision isn't tip-top yet), he seemed to have a great time and really enjoyed the Superchivos victory. If this doesn't illustrate passion, then what does?

In fact, his level of Superchivos passion was so high that it became newsworthy:

As any young man will tell you, commitment (or the fear thereof) is an important step in life. While Jack hasn't committed himself to another yet (see Heartbreak below for more on this), we thought it was important that he learned about what commitment means. And what better place to learn this than at a wedding? And how about one of the first gay weddings in New York City to boot? Well, we figured that such an occasion, and lesson for Jack, was worth a quick weekend jaunt to NYC.

Thus it came be that the whole family attended the wedding of Jonathan Mintz (Jed's former boss at Consumer Affairs) to his long-time partner John Feinblatt at Gracie Mansion (more on the wedding from the New York Times here). The officiant of the wedding also delivered a lecture to Jack about the importance of commitment:
As many of you have no doubt know already, Jack has been dating Harper Doyel, the daughter of our friends (if you're out of the loop on Jack's love life then you can see some of the highlights of their dates here and here). Their dates have been hot and heavy- mainly consisting of them falling over face first on the couch. In fact they didn't actually look at each other until date #5. But Harper is moving back to the US (along with her parents) next month; she recently broke the news to Jack and needless to say he experienced his first true heartbreak:

Physical Prowess
Like any young man, Jack loves physical feats of strength and daring- though at this stage his ability to execute them is rather limited. In this vein, his new found ability to sit up has been his first great feat of physical strength (holding up his head and rolling over weren't quite as exciting landmarks). He has been sitting up a storm (if one can do such a thing), though he doesn't have it 100% mastered quite yet (don't worry he's doing an intense training program to improve his conditioning):

Now wasn't that much better and more memory packed than a silly baby book entry about his first solid food? (*Which was carrots, by the way, Mom, so don't worry about that information being lost in time.)