Swim Lessons

[This entry was supposed to have posted a few days ago, but internet here is spotty at best, and I just found out that it didn’t. So here it is, a bit belated.)

I have water coming out of pretty much every orifice right now. Ears, nose…this is after an hour and two showers from getting out of the pool. I’m taking swim lessons. I don’t think I took swim lessons even as a kid. I’ve never been much of a guppy, more like a mountain goat, sometimes a puppy, but never sushi. Today, in the spirit of change and growth and jackall to do for 2 more months while Jess and I are in Costa Rica, I started swim lessons. I realized that one of the most unnatural things you can ask an adult to do for the first time is learn to keep their heads under water. Especially an asthmatic. An Asthmatic, who for their entire lives have concentrated on breathing, better and more often. Now you ask them to concentrate on not breathing. You cough. A lot. If you ever decide to take swim lessons, remember that: you will look like a poor, sputtering, drowning badger flapping in the water failing miserably at looking at all graceful. But as I’m learning from my impetuously lovely partner, new experiences are to be charged into full throttle and with manic joy yelling “YahYahYahYahYahYah!!!” the entire way.

Tho, maybe not, however, while you’re learning to keep your head under water.

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I’ve been listening to Brandi Carlile’s Bear Creek album almost obsessively the last few days, at least in the morning. The rest of the day, with me too busy to be sitting down to listen to music without end, my brain makes up for the loss and plays the songs anyways. Friday night we went to the symphony and, let me tell you, that album works well in your head with a symphony backing. Every morning, I get up, sit down, turn on the music and write. And I’ll tell you a secret-I’ve been writing poetry. SssshhhhhhhH! I know, it’s been a while, but I’m trying to keep it low down, just between you and me, ok? My muse, she’s still a little shy lately. Well, at least the one with the official title. The unofficial yet clearly enthroned muse, the one sleeping away the weekend day morning right now, taking up all the bed since I’ve vacated my half, is rarely anything resembling shy, and anyone who knows her will heartily agree.
Lately, this has become my morning routine: wake up, blink a lot, get up, gather my iPad and headphones to go write, and immediately upon opening my bedroom door have my ankles besieged by two adorable little furry ankle ambushers who bounce up and down impressively like a couple of caffeinated jumping beans absolutely desperate, after 8 hours of having all the humans asleep, for love. Desperate, you should see them. Now, I ask you, how can anyone have anything but a fabulous day when it starts with that?
But yes, to see a symphony for the first time? I would recommend it to anyone. To see 50 different bows moving in perfect unison, while the musicians all dance in their seats to the music just to get it out, like it’s in their muscles and they need to stretch it out, like it’s in their bones and they need to constantly clear the path from the marrow to the instrument…it’s a fantastic experience. We sat in the nose bleed seats of a tiny old majestic theater that had, we all found out a movement into the first song, absolutely no A/C. You could power a country with the wind coming from the makeshift program fans everyone was swinging back and forth. And I found out that the secret to going to a symphony is to book it as fast as you can out at intermission to get to the wine and soda before everyone else does, if you want wine or soda, because inevitably the theater only prepares half as much of it as there are people attending. It’s a universal law, and I experienced it for the first time.
I’ve been pretty homesick over here. But as I learned from a movie we saw last night (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but that’s another entry, maybe tomorrow’s), homesickness is rarely as simple as it seems, and if you give yourself time, space, gentleness and an open heart and mind and eyes, eventually you’ll realize what it really is, and eventually it’ll work itself out.

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Week 3 Costa Rica

This is around the time that one realizes that 3 months is a really long time to be travelling, anywhere. Paradise? Yeah, 3 months is still a really, really long time. Both the three months we’ve been gone already, and the three months we’re in the process of being here in Costa Rica. That said, paradise is a nice place to be homesick. Jess and I, this long gone, are going through our homesick pangs. Again, it’s a really, a long time to be away from your friends and family, y’know? And we’ve got so awesome of a group of friends and family that it’s hard not to miss em. We have a little slice of home, though, as we’re staying with my aunts here in San Jose and so, y’know, we hold onto that. Costa Rica is a little ridiculously pretty, tho. We just got back from spending a solid week more or less in Manuel Antonio, the prettiest beach this side of the universe. Tourist-infested, yes, but amazingly gorgeous. I am more tanned than I ever have been in my life, and am still shaking the sand out of my ears. Dominical was an unexpected pleasure. To anyone considering Costa Rica travels, check out Dominical. A teeny little surfer town, more like a street, really, right on the beach. Just the right amount of places to eat and stay, and the only tourists around are the dedicated beach bums and surfers. So laid back you’re on your head. Highly recommended.

Enough of that, tho. On with the pictures I’ve been promising!

walkin’ downtown San Jose.

somewhere really old and pretty (the Teatro Nacional), with Jess being super touristy and taking lots of pictures.


More to come. Most of the beach pics are on the little tossabout camera, which we’re still processing. Stay tuned.


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It’s the little things…

I don’t know if anyone who has never left the U.S. realizes how rare it actually is to have such a clear and sharp division between residential and commercial in a city, as we do in the states. You come to expect and accept that when you look over a city, like we are here where we’re staying in Costa Rica, what you’re looking at is city, that there are neighborhoods and a city center for the most part, that there is a very clear cut commercial part of the town, centered together, and that’s the city. Sure, there are apartments over the shops, maybe one block here and there amongst the business blocks is residential, but there’s a distinction. You rarely if ever have a residence one door over from a business, and if you do its clearly deliniated with signs and difference in appearance.

What you don’t expect is that the mass of the city is just a labyrinth of narrow streets and mostly similar unbroken strings of buildings, where some are unmarked businesses, most are residences, and some are both. You don’t expect there to be no clear “business district” or “downtown.” Jess tells me this is basically how it is in most of the world, it’s just the U.S. that’s different. Claiming my thus far untravelled naivete here. Last night we went to a seemingly hole in the wall adobe eatery in the center of San Jose which served, I was told, the best Costa Rican soul food around. And boy were they right. I still don’t know the same of it, they didn’t have a sign I could see. Next door was a home that doubled as a veterinary clinic. Mostly, from what I could see, it was residences, tho considering this place came out of nowhere I certainly can’t be sure of it.

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52 days. 4 US states. 9 cities/towns. Countless miles, farmers markets, breathtaking views, bucketlist items crossed off, amazing dishes, possible blog posts. Too little time to do it all in. 5 plane rides, 2 rental cars, and one amazing boat ride. 2 islands. 1 other seen from the plane. 2 languages. 3 mountain ranges. Approximately 10 strictly local brews. More or less 5 other locally made but nationally distributed. 7 places stayed at. One apartment dismantled. Approximately 10-15 poems written. 1 decommissioned military fort. 40 graveyards (at least, seriously…in New England, there’s a graveyard at every corner, kinda creepy), 1 of them visited, with 1 goldilocks tower climbed (by stairs). 24 sets of castle turrets. At least 5 collections of gargoyls. At least 24 american castles. 4-5 college campuses. 4-5 college campus archives. 10,000+ archive images taken. 175 hours taking those images.
All leading up to this. Costa Rica. We arrived yesterday, and are here for at least 3 months. We might be here a year, we might be nomads. It’s impossible to be here and not feel your inflexibility leave with your breath as you overlook the country from the top of a mountain, as the mountain wind makes itself known, as the clouds lay down along the mountain tips in the distance to rest a moment, as you realize you’re in frikken Costa Rica. For me, Johnny, it’s the first time in my adult life in another country. It’s been a big bucket list item, and it’s now crossed off. Now, to replace that one item is countless ones-now instead of “travel to another country” it’s “travel to X country.”
We apologize for not being better bloggers. The summer turned out to be a bigger challenge than we anticipated. Costa Rica, though, gives you space to breath, to make art, to write about your experiences. I got here and my muse was waiting for me, smiling.
So, all this to say, Hello from Costa Frikken Rica. Pictures to come.

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Out In Bull City!

I wrote this whole post three days ago about a wonderful night out in Durham, but alas, it disappeared before my eyes just as I was posting it.

Because I promised Johnny I would, I’m going to re-write it — but by that, I mean, give you the story in pictures.

Here goes.

We went to this awesome restaurant called Bull City Burger. I’d link it as I did the first time I wrote this post, but now I’m too lazy to do it, so look it up yourself on le googles.  It’s awesome. Here’s a picture of the swank urban chic decor of the bar, where they serve beers brewed in their very own micro brewery.
















Movin’ on. Here’s a picture of this very neat restaurant’s front of house, ie, where you order your food. You walk up, give them your order, they give you a little wrought iron place holder with a number on it that represents a year and then a bit of local history associated with that year. It’s this historian’s little pre-supper excitement.

Okay, now, if you’re wondering what’s cool about this place, take a look at these two self-explanatory notices on their menu and in the ordering line.








































Pretty cool, no? I can get with that. Especially since the food was still reasonably prices.  Oh, and another cool thing: their soda fountain. They serve Boylan’s all natural cane sugar soda. It’s as good for you as soda can get. 🙂
















N.B. –we didnt’ have soda.  Heheh–we had beer. Proof’s in the locally brewed nut-brown ale.





















H’okay. Super cute. Now, onto the food. Hello, baby! We both had burgers, which is pretty much the only thing they serve. Good thing, too, because it was le amazing. Mine had an over easy egg and bacon. Mmm. Bacon. Also, we got a side of duck frites, ie french fries cooked in duck fat. All I can say to that is, le yumm.





















Look at that smile! And that, my friends, was our wonderful meal at Bull Street Burger!  If you get a chance to hang out in Durham, definitely stop by there! I promise you won’t be dissapointed. They also have what looks to be a pretty delish veggie burger for the non-meat eaters out there! Cheers!


















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Durham, NC

So, we’ve been on the road 3 days, in Durham 2, and boy are we tired. However, we’ve set ourselves to do at least one cool Durham thing a day. Tuesday, our first day here, Jess showed me the Duke campus and, let me tell you, I felt like I was in England, or at Hogwarts, or both. That place is lovely, especially to a romantic little artist poet like myself. Sooner or later I’ll get to get out of the library archives and sit outside and draw some of the beautiful old campus buildings. Be on the lookout, but probably on the art blog I have, jrocketibanez.com.

Today we stopped by the Durham Farmer’s Market, on Foster St. downtown, on the way home. The cool thing about the market is that it goes on twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays, with the Saturday market being the bigger one but the Wednesday market being quite lovely. They have 67 vendors, all within a 70 mile radius of the city, so it is uber local. They’re open year round, have a market cooking teaching series, and even an annual chef’s challenge. Now, Jess’s approach to any farmer’s market is to walk through, twice, and then the third time do the shopping. Today, we might have gone more than twice, just to take everything in. But we did do some shopping. Let me tell you a bit about the places we got some things from, and one we were about to. 



We got some beets and fennel at Everlaughter Farm. In their own words: “Ever Laughter Farm began in 2008 as a collaboration between Will Cramer and Sam Hummel. Today, it is a small, diversified farm that uses sustainable methods to grow a wide variety of vegetables for market year-round. Heritage breed hogs and laying hens are also raised as part of a rotational system that tries to produce many of the farm’s organic fertilizer inputs naturally and on-site. We hope you will come visit us at one of the markets we attend, or visit the farm during one of our farm events. You can ensure you hear about events at Ever Laughter bysubscribing to our weekly newsletter.” 


We then stopped over at Chapel Hill Creamery and got a wonderful brie-type cheese that, I have to admit, we’re really fighting to eat completely right now. I just have one thing to say to illustrate how cool they are: the cheese they were selling today, at least some of them, was made today from a cow they milked in the last few days. I’m not kidding. Isn’t that neat?!



from Chicken Bridge Bakery because we were too busy tasting bread at Loaf to take pictures.

The other thing we got, which we really can’t help but devour, is an Olive Boule from Loaf, a local    bakery. They just opened a store front recently, apparently, and are amazing. Rustic brick oven breads and pastries, absolutely amazing. We were seriously missing our Gainesville locally baked breads from Vine Bread and Pasta, Flour Pot Bakery, and Uppercrust Bakery, but boy are we excited to enjoy some of Loaf’s amazing breads while we’re here. We’re also super looking forward to trying some of Chicken Bridge Bakery’s breads, which we are saving for Saturday. We tried a fennel bread which we almost died about.

So we are super excited about the Durham local scene, and super excited to be able to use our travels to scout out local, sustainable culture scenes from where we’re going to tell everyone about. Durham, from what I’ve seen, is a place to be if you have any interest in a community that values locally and independently made foods, supporting your community, and working together to have a culture rich with art, love and tasty food.  Go check out the Durham Farmer’s Market website, and check out the page they have devoted, in their words, to people they like. Some neat recourses there.

See you around!


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So, this is it.  Tomorrow, our one year long adventure begins.  I (Jess) am off to Texas to present at a conference, then coming back to Florida, where Johnny and I pack the car with a few belongings and our beloved dog Milo and head out to Duke to do research for my dissertation. Johnny is going to help me, except if Pablo Neruda’s papers get in the way, which I have a feeling they might.  Milo, on the other hand, will not be helping at all, but but probably conduct his own research on North Carolina squirrel varieties. We are a scholarly family, after all.  🙂  After a few weeks at the archives at Duke, we begin a whirlwind tour of the Northeast, visiting NYC and Boston, and their respective archives. We will will come back to Florida just in time to pack what’s left of our house.  A few days after returning, dontchaknow, we’ll be off to Costa Rica!  That’s where I will by processing the collected materials and write my dissertation. Okay, let’s be real, it’s also where we will live it up in the mountains/beaches/jungles etc of Costa Rica mojito’s in hand. If all goes as planned, we will be back in Florida in a little over a year so that I can finish my degree and we can start the next great adventure.

Writing the itinerary down like this makes it appear as if these plans fit seamlessly together all along. In fact, these plans have been a long time in the making, and many others in unmaking. At first, we fantasized about the idea of moving to Costa Rica like a fashionista might fantasize about a $900 pair of fancy shoes. After speaking about it, thinking about it, and doing a bit of research, though, we realized this was an entirely doable project. So, we committed to it.  And that’s when the hardest part began–planning and arranging and researching more.   Then, we got cold feet. Then, we committed again. And now, here we are.  My keywords for this journey are: flexibility, laughter, and love.  I like that I am old enough to know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that if we are open and flexibile, I am sure that we are going to live it right. 🙂 I also love that I am on this journey with Johnny, my partner in crime for the past two years and counting.  Knowing that Johnny will be next to me every step of the way makes it way more exciting than the prospect of going it along.

As for this blog, we’ll try to keep it up as much as we can, and to share the cool homesteady things we learn on our adventures! Our own garden plot, which is now producing tons of tomatoes and green beans, and is about to see its first sunflower in bloom, has been bequeathed to our good friend, who has promised us to care for it well.  : )

As I write this, I am overwhelmed with the feeling love is all around me here, and that I have grown to love and care for this little piece of Florida so deeply.  It’s time to go, and the only things I can think of to write are cheesy and come across as trite on the page. The simple fact is: I will miss those people and creatures who make my life so wonderful.

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memories are made of this

It’s packing Saturday at the Lancia-Ibanez household and today I decided to tackle the small collection of boxes under the bed. That’s where my old pictures, letters, cards, diplomas, and other memorabilia get stashed when I move from house to house.   I always move with them, and I rarely ever even look inside. This year, for this move, I decided I was going to go through every last shred of paper to weed things down to their essentials. No more useless memories. From four boxes, I am down to one, in a painstaking process that took all morning and most of the afternoon.  Sitting here after it’s all over makes me want to jot down some observations as I’m in a peculiarly reflective mood.

At some point, not too long ago, all the items in those boxes were too near to my heart to consider getting rid of. And while I feel the same way about some of the stuff, it’s strange now to feel so disconnected from most of it.  There are pictures of me all over the world – the obligatory pyramids in Egypt, the highlands of Ethiopia, the alps in Italy, shots from all around North America—that bring back fond memories of travels and adventures. Those I kept, as well as most of the family and close friends shots and all their letters.  All the thoughts the images conjure up are positive.  It’s bizarre because deep down I know it wasn’t always great. Rose-colored glasses, I guess.

Then there are the pictures I don’t care about at all– of friends I am fondly hugging but whose names I don’t even remember anymore, of landscapes I can’t identify, those botched shots with half a thumb obscuring the lens of an otherwise great shot. I threw those out without half a second chance.  Those terrify me because I know it wasn’t so long ago and it’s like amnesia almost.

I also got ride of duplicates, those five almost-identical shots of the same subjects, and embarrassing pictures kissing exes and generally looking unattractive, even in my youthful wrinkle-free era. Those remind me that memories fade, and life moves at a quick clip, and it’s a good thing some things changed.

In general, though, I am most struck by the fact that the stuff I carry, the pictures, the notes, letters, and awards, don’t really resonate with me anymore. I see myself in them, and smile as I think back, but if you replaced me with someone else I probably wouldn’t have remembered I was once there, too. It’s odd to think that enough time has passed that even pictures of me as a “grown up” seem distant enough to be able to be someone else, like baby pictures that you only know are you because your parents tell you so.

It’s also strange to think of creating this, my own self-selected set of memories. As an historian, as an archivist, I feel like I know a different side of the process, the one that comes from the subject.  It is a curious thought.  It’s also remarkable how little I have in terms of tangible memories since digital cameras and cell phones. As my SD card keeps deleting all me recent memories, and CDs get transferred until they’re obsolete, I wonder if I’ll be left with a giant void in my future memory boxes.  It leaves me feeling in a very delicate and vulnerable mood.

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The closer and closer you get to travels, once committed, the stronger and stronger the feeling of senioritis, or whatever equivalent there is for non-students, wouldn’t you agree? We here at HH are getting ready and closer to take this show on the road. Summer travels are taking us to different archives for Boss Lady’s dissertation studies, up and down the east coast, and then in August, it’s official so I’m going to start finally talking about it here, we’re going to Costa Rica. Yes, Hogtown Homestead is going to Costa Rica. And boy o boy are we excited about it. All we talk about is how gorged we’re going to get on fruit and produce.

I’ve been thinking about what direction to take this little blog in, during our travels. A shift is necessary, y’know? So, I’ve decided that we’re going to focus on a couple of things. One is how to travel healthfully, and not give into the McDonald’s monster on hour 8 of a 16 hour drive (although Waffle House is the exception…a road trip is not a road trip without at least one midnight Waffle House visit.) The other thing we’re going to focus in on is the awesomeness of each place we visit’s sustainable/community oriented/healthy/local culture. For example, I fully intend to go Co-op hunting. There’ll be pics, don’t worry. Lots and Lots of pics.

That said, it would only make sense, then, to do the same with Gainesville, right? So. Stay tuned, because in the next couple of weeks before we take off, I’m going to do a series of profiles about awesome people, places and recourses here in Gainesville, FL. Any suggestions are more than welcome, and in fact encouraged. As are any suggestions for Durham NC, Boston, NY, DC and Costa Rica.


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