September 12, 2011

Anniversaries are for Suckers (and I’m a sucker)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Regina @ 6:38 pm

It was two years ago today that I landed in Edinburgh with only the vaguest notion of what was going on with my life. Everyone always says it, but I can’t be the one to buck the trend so here goes – I can’t believe how fast it’s all gone. In lots of ways the first year felt much longer. There was a lot more of an emotional transition to being in a new country and being a student again, with all the anxieties those two things entail. Now that I’ve been working for the last year, things move along a bit more smoothly. Work is hardly my dream job but I know what to expect each day and my co-workers are absurdly charming so I’ve settled into an easier routine than last year.

I realize that I (once again) haven’t written in ages so I’ll do my best to sketch in what’s been happening. After graduating, I started working as a whisky tour guide and have been there ever since. Like most jobs, there are things that make me a bit bonkers but unlike most jobs, it feels very homey. This can be great but it is definitely a big part of the reason I haven’t found other work of the “career building” variety yet. Hitting this two-year mark is making me focus a bit more on planning the future, rather than just coasting along.

Having a non-serious job with plenty of paid-vacation time has freed me up to travel quite a bit this past year. After Italy for New Year’s, I also spent a week in Paris with my sister. We saw the ballet, visited all sorts of lovely old things, drank Hemingway-expensive cocktails, and just generally palled around seeester-style.

Oooo la la.

There were also a few trips down to London. I had a reunion with a friend from my exchange year in Japan whom I haven’t seen for eleven years. With CTams, I saw some fancy theater at the Globe and, even more excitingly, saw the Avett Brothers again.

Shakespeare was a big fan of size jokes.

Also, I took a break from my UK living to go home and see my best friend and my Dad get married. I can’t in good conscience leave that story to one sentence so I’ll post a photo as teaser and promise to write more later.

Photo c/o Mike Rubino

Love nuggets.

Here in Edinburgh I got to move out of the boxroom and gain a new flatmate. During the festival, everything I saw was just absurdly great, unlike last year when I suffered through some truly painful nights. At some point I might try to recap all the good theatre out there but catching David Sedaris was definitely a highlight. The festival ended with seeing Arcade Fire play at the castle (soooo good!). Overall though, most of my every day life is just filled with pints after work, teasing tourists during work, dancing to 50s music, period-drama parties, enchilada nights, and marathon Doctor Who watching. It’s a good way to live.

So that’s the good stuff that I’ve failed to write about in any kind of timely fashion. After looking over the past, I’m always tempted to start really focusing on what’s coming next. New Year’s has never been my kind of holiday because I always felt like the new year started when the new school year began (because I am a nerd). In keeping with that habit, I’m trying to use this September to spend some serious time working on what the next year should be full of. Here’s hoping.


March 3, 2011

The Dramatic Conclusion

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Regina @ 8:03 pm

As it the already the third month of this new year, it’s about time I wrap up writing about my Italian sojourn.

CTams and I made it back to Milan on that magical train and had one more day together. We weren’t in the mood for waiting in lines for museums or up for spending much money, so we mostly spent our time wandering. Luckily, we found all sorts of free beauty along this canal.

Da Vinci had a hand in this.

We also got some wandering in to a free Astronomy museum. For awhile, we also waited in the gift shop of an art museum debating going in or not. Finally, we settled on looking at art books in the shop and then heading off for hot chocolate instead. My flight out was the day after Cory’s, so we said our goodbye in our last (mostly unremarkable) hostel.


For my last night in Italy, the most amazing thing happened. Before we had gone to Rome, Cory and I walked past a sign and I said “WAIT!” Because that sign was telling me that Dario Fo and Franca Rame, who I had done my dissertation on, were returning to the stage for the first time in 30 years to perform one of their greatest theatrical pieces. No, I am NOT kidding. This show was set to open, on my last night in town. I had no clue this was going to happen, it was all completely by chance and it filled my heart with joy. With broken Italian, and lots of confusion, I managed to buy a ticket to get to see my favorite theatrical lady!!! There are not enough exclamation points in the world for my excitement.

Actually going to the theater was a bit nerve-wracking, as I speak no Italian whatsoever. In line, a few women asked me something and I had to stare blankly at them in reply. Awkward. Also, I knew I was only going to be able to get an outline impression of the show as I’ve read it many times but would just be relying on memory rather than understanding. Even though they are both now in their 80s and not exactly in their performing prime, it was just a sheer delight to see them onstage. To see the audience react so warmly and with such affection after having read about it all year long. Amazing, amazing, amazing.

I snuck a photo of the set.

Maybe it will not surprise you to hear that I had a hard time falling asleep after that. Part of it was knowing that I had to be up at 5 to begin the trek to the airport, and part of it was feeling like a kid who got a million ponies for Christmas. With very little sleep, I strapped by backpack on before the sun rose and walked for an hour with my map in hand to the bus station (subways were not running that early) and made my way to the airport, bringing to close one hell of a trip.

I loved the trip THIS much!

February 3, 2011

2011, Ciao

Filed under: Uncategorized — Regina @ 10:30 pm

Most things were closed for New Year’s day, and we weren’t the earliest of risers, but we did venture out of the hostel. Adam, Cory and I headed to Piazza del Popolo to see what we could see. Mostly we just walked around, enjoyed one another’s company, and took silly pictures.

I'm Poseidon, clearly. Or should I say Neptune?

We also were determined to do at least one thing a guide book recommended, so once again the wandering and fighting with maps commenced until we found our way to The Best Gelato In Rome (or so we were told). This place doesn’t sell cones, because they distract from the gelato, and all the flavors were carefully covered to preserve them. I went for stracciatella and grapefruit. It was worth all the fuss and then some. Eating it next to this place didn’t hurt either.

Dessert eating backdrop of champions.

The next day everything opened up including the Colosseum. Since we’d bought our tickets before, we magically skipped the line (I had to edit this to not say queue. Uh oh, I’ve been here awhile now). Cliche though it may be for me to say it, I thought just being there was AMAZING. We spent a good deal of time walking around mostly just saying articulate things like “Wow” and “Holy crap!” and “This is sooooo old!!!!!” We also took some self-timer portraits because being tacky is fun.

Can you catch the cultural stereotyping?

Have I mentioned yet how much fun this whole trip was? I feel like I should interject that in case anyone was wondering.

After the Colosseum, we spent some time walking on the Appian way. Later, we wandered down to the Jewish area and I was able to fulfill my main goal in Rome – eating some guts. Before traveling over I read up about Roman cooking and learned that offal was a real Roman dish and I was determined to find some innards for my own innards. Cory joined me on this adventure and we ate some brains together. They were tasty! We also ate some what the guide book termed “deep-fried Jewish-Roman delicacies” which were also ace.

Eating brains leads to zombie behavior.

This was our final night in Rome and we hauled back to the hostel to grab our baggage before catching the night train back to Milan. Because I was forced for lovely-reasons to stop and take pictures, we had a close call with our train.

Worth the subsequent hassle.

The three of us did make it out to the hostel and said our goodbyes as we would be leaving Adam behind. Cory and I made it out the train station and caught the last train back to the city. At our transfer stop to the subway, we were the only ones on the platform and soon two men in uniforms were calling to us to leave because there were no more trains. We sort of, forgot, to think about trains not running at midnight. When we walked over to the adjacent platform, the attendants were giving us directions in broken English and shoving us on the last train going the opposite way so we could maybe catch the night bus to the station. It was such a close call that Cory’s bag actually got caught in the door as it closed. We got off at that stop, wandered around looking confusedly for the bus stop and finally lucked out and found it. At this point we were cutting it close to catch our train. The night bus finally arrived, was slow, and we had no idea where we were. It began to look like we might be spending one more unplanned night in Rome, having to eat the cost of buying another train ticket the next day. The longer the bus took, the quieter and more miserable we looked. Finally, the bus pulled up at the main station, not the one we needed of course, but here it began to sit and idle. There was no time for idling! So Cory and I jetted off the bus, ran full tilt the cab stand because we had only 10 minutes to spare. The cab driver informed us it was a 15 minute ride, and we knew it woudln’t come cheap either. While all the drivers laughed at the silly Americans in Italian, the two of us glumly decided it was worth the fare to head to the right station and maybe try and sort out buying new tickets/where we were going to stay up all night. The driver took as at alarming, but thoughtful of him speed, off to where we needed to go. After half-heartedly loping towards the station, already too late to catch our train, we looked up and saw that our train had a fifteen minute delay. The greatest train delay of my life!!! We laughed and ran to our platform, finally emerging from the stairs out of breath but loudly excited. All the normal people who were on time looked at us judgily but we were too thrilled at our amazing luck to care. In the nick of time, we were on the overnight back to Milan.

We had no right to make that train.

January 31, 2011

Ciao to 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Regina @ 7:54 pm

Having stumbled off the train almost by chance at the right station, CTams and I were ready to take Rome by storm. First we had to navigate out to our hostel which was on the outskirts of the city. Although it was a bit out of the way to get to, it was right on the beach so we could see the sea. Cory’s friend was meeting us there and he would be spending the next couple days with us. I hadn’t met him before but we’d all worked for the same theatre company once upon a time so I was fairly confident it would all work out well (which it did, and then some).

It was New Year’s eve and we had checked in, napped, and were ready to hit the town. The three of us took the train back into town on the hunt for Old Stuff. Rome did not disappoint. In case you hadn’t heard, the whole city is chock full of Old Stuff but we began where all good tourists do – at the Colosseum. Since it was late in the afternoon, we just took to wandering around the place and saved our actual trip inside for another day.

Old stuff!

After a few hours of that, we were all hungry but wanted to make the most of our trip by heading a tour guide approved place to eat. This might have been misguided of us. Three hours of looking finally led us to a little bistro. We walked in awkwardly and were greeted politely by the staff with a “buena sera.” We stood awkwardly in the doorway and then the staff all said “Ciao!” because they were closing and needed the foreigners to get a clue and clear out. Oops. Next we saw a grocery store and figured we could buy sandwich supplies, nothing fancy but it would do. As we approached the door, someone came out and waved us away because they too were closing. We hadn’t really taken into account that New Year’s eve was a holiday for other people too. Feeling a little desperate that nowhere near our out-of-the-way hostel would be open and almost certain the whole city would be closed the next day, we scampered into the nearest kebab shop and bought an obscene amount of (slightly crappy) pizza. At least we wouldn’t starve in 2011. We wanted to pick up some wine for the night but were again fearful that everywhere would be closed so we shelled out a whole 10 euros on a bottle of wine at the shop. The attendant looked at us strangely but sold it to us anyway. Upon walking out of the store, we realized that RIGHT NEXT DOOR was a very cheap wine shop and we picked up three more bottles for less than we paid for the kebab-shop wine. Lesson learned a little too late but we were now well stocked for the evening.

Now I realize that most people would think New Year’s Even in Rome would mean massive party on the street and palling about with the crowds. But, Cory and I were pretty wiped out from the overnight train and Adam was just getting over a cold. Although it doesn’t sound very glamourous, we all agreed to celebrating the new year in the hostel but this was an AMAZING decision. The hostel was quite large and had a cinema room in the basement. Since all the other guests were foolishly out in the cold, we had the whole place to ourselves and we watched Men in Black. We created our own drinking game on the spot for things like “whenever Tommy Lee Jones looks annoyed” or “whenever Will Smith says something smart-alecky.” It was great fun! When the movie was over, we went upstairs to ask for another and the owners teased us but also gave us another movie to watch. They made us promise to come up for midnight though, which we were all happy to do. As the hour neared, we came up for champagne with strangers and we all counted down together. Then the three of us ran off to the beach and watched fireworks and listened to the ocean. Adam and I attempted to sing Auld Lang Syne despite knowing none of the words.

Why hello 2011! You are starting off amazingly.

When the fireworks died down, we made our sandy way back to the hostel lobby in time for a dance party with the ten other guests hanging about. The first song I heard in 2011 was the YMCA. We danced around, slid down the hallways in our socks, and played with the streamers from the poppers. After the dancing, we snuck off back to the cinema room to finish watching Speed. And then, finally, to bed!

Maybe this was when Tom Jones came on?

January 28, 2011

Milan, the first time around

Filed under: Uncategorized — Regina @ 12:59 am

After recovering from knocking my teeth out, acing my degree, finding a job, getting a place to live, and sorting out my work visa I decided I could treat myself. So, I booked a trip to Italy. Best. Decision. Ever.

My friend from Pittsburgh, CTams, is living up the theater life in Germany so I emailed to see if she would be up for a New Year’s adventure in Europe. We batted about a bunch of destinations but I couldn’t shake the idea of Italy, having never been and having always wanted to go. Doing my thesis on two Italian artists meant all I did all summer was read about Italy so that had an effect too. Flights to Milan were cheap and Cory convinced me that we couldn’t let go of going to Rome so our itinerary came together.

Before the trip, there was a minor possibility that my passport would not arrive from the Border Agency but luck was on my side and everything worked out fine. My flight to Italy was cheap (but the 9 hour layover in Germany was a bit dull…) and I got to town a day before Cory did. The hostel was a bit unconventional and I stayed up drinking wine and smoking cigarettes with the manager (don’t worry, family, I’m not really a smoker) until the early hours of the morning, like you do. The next day I explored around on my own, just walking about and taking the odd picture here and there.

There they go, blessin' folk.

When my friend arrived that evening, the real adventure began. Traveling on your own has its moments but I’m a bigger fan of having someone to pal about with. We saw some cool buildings, the outside of several theaters, and wacky Christmas light decorations. After a 3-hour slow exploration, we finally found a gelato place we had to try and were not disappointed. We took some silly self-timer portraits in front of one of the many arches Napolean left lying around all of Europe.

A nice woman offered to take a picture for us and we had to explain we were being awkward on purpose.

We booked a night train to Rome, saving money on the train ticket and skipping on having to stay at a hostel that night. Sleeping sitting up on a train isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I’ve found out that drinking wine out of a juice-box will be a big help.

Cheap wine and salami sandwhiches - the travel food of champions.

The thing about taking trains in Italy is that it is NOTHING like taking trains in Japan or Germany. First of all, no stations were ever announced or anything helpful like that. This means that at some point, I realized many people were leaving and thought “maybe this is Rome?” but had no way of knowing. Neither Cory or I speak Italian but my look of confused desperation elicitied a kind mumbling of “Roma” from a guy leaving our compartment and our suspicions were confirmed. We desperately threw on our shoes, snatched our backpacks down from the rack and sprinted off the train. Only to see it sit there for another ten minutes so we looked a bit silly. Still, we had arrived!

January 27, 2011

The Holidays

Filed under: Uncategorized — Regina @ 11:52 pm

For the second year in a row, I stayed in Scotland for Christmas. Plane tickets back home were a bit too pricey for me and I wasn’t sure my passport would arrive in time from the border agency (it did – and I have my visa, YAY!). Just like last year, Christmas didn’t turn out at all like I had planned it but managed to be great nonetheless.

The original plan was to spend the day on my own in the flat. Living with three other people has been great so far, we all get on well, but I was looking forward to having the whole place to myself as everyone else went homeward. It was going to the first Christmas since Pop-pop died and I liked the idea of having a quiet kind of day. People were worried I’d be lonely, but I was planning on baking a Kelly-family-style tuna casserole and curling up with some TV and some skype which all sounded like a perfect Christmas to me. Also, since I was working Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, I was glad to not have any travel plans to stress about.

The weekend before Christmas, I came down with a nasty cold and was laid up in bed for a few days. Since most of my flatmates had already left, I had plenty of alone time sneezing on the couch that week. I got well enough to make it in to work for Christmas eve and went out to the pub with everyone for a few hours. I wasn’t drinking because I was still feeling pretty crappy but it was nice to see people. On the walk home from that, I realized that maybe my master plan of spending Christmas on my own was maybe going to be a wee bit sad after all but there wasn’t much I could do about it at that point.

That was before I realized I had managed to lock myself out of the flat. Lock myself out. On Christmas Eve. From a flat I don’t technically live in (still in the boxroom) so I couldn’t exactly call the landlady who doesn’t know I exist and ask her kindly to come out on Christmas eve to let me in. Oops.

Thankfully, a buddy from work kindly took me in and let me crash his Christmas. His flat was also empty of flatmates so we ate midnight pizza and stayed up late. For Christmas day we went to his friend’s place and had a great fancy breakfast, watched tv all day, and ordered Chinese food. It was far away from “the plan” but it was a really fantastic Christmas.

After another night of crashing at his place, I made it back to work for Boxing day and my keys were waiting for me in my locker. Seeing my keys was a huge relief because now I had one evening to pack and get ready for my New Year’s trip to Italy…

October 28, 2010

Bragging Rights

Filed under: Uncategorized — Regina @ 10:18 pm

Well, normally I don’t like to talk myself up but this time around I’m making an exception. My degree results came in yesterday and I was awarded a distinction, which is top honors. (Or should I say honours?)

Normally, I’m not all “guess how smart my grades say I am!” But you know what? I busted my face in. I had essentially no supervisor for most of the writing process. My topic wasn’t even narrowed down to a vaguely reasonable size until 4 weeks before hand-in. I had never done work of that scale, style, or scope before. So, in face of all that, I am taking up bragging for a day and declaring myself a one of these:

ME, in cookie form.

It never would’ve been accomplished without my coursemates’ help (and all my other buddies too). Their constant reassurances and proofreading and general solidarity in the face of our course is certainly worthy of distinction in itself.

October 20, 2010

Life on Arden and whisky time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Regina @ 5:55 pm

I’ve been settled into my boxroom for almost two months now. This started off as a temporary arrangement, and while it’s still far from permanent, it is all set to to be my home for another few months. The flat has 3 proper bedrooms and I live with 3 excellent people. My room is large enough for me to be happy (although there are times I long for a radiator on the wall). It has no heat but I’ve got hot water bottles and the will to sleep in layers of wool. The skylight saves it from being a dank hole, but it leaks water regularly. After a late night furniture rearrangement last night, the space isn’t quite as well laid out now but at least I no longer have drips on my toes at night.

Here’s where I’m living these days.

The three essentials: hot water bottle, wool hat, and trashcan to catch the leak.

View from my bed, with my new boots peeking.

The kitchen is tiny but mighty.

View from our living room window - that's the top of Arthur's Seat.

My biggest concern after graduation (besides sleeping loads) was trying to find a job and figure out The Rest of My Life. There’s been success on the former and I suppose the latter might take more than two months. My friend put in a good word for me and I’ve managed to land a job as a whisky tour guide. For the first time in my life I can say, “I’m going to whisky school on Friday” without it being some kind of sad metaphor.

While I know this isn’t a long term kind of gig, it is ideal for now. It gives me justification for applying for a post-study work visa, which I’ll be doing next week. That visa is expensive to apply for but it allows me to stay and work in the UK for two years. It’s not necessarily my plan to stay for two years or to stay beyond that but I really want to give it a try while I still can. Edinburgh is a great place to live but I’m still angling to get a theatre related job down in London ultimately. It’ll take some time but I’ll try my best and see how it all shakes out.

In the meantime, I’m really happy in my closet, excited to be employed again, and having lots of adventures with my friends still in the city. Sure, many of these adventures involve drinking tea and watching old tv shows, but that’s a pretty excellent way to spend a Wednesday.


Double rainbow and the back of other tenement flats identical to mine

September 9, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Regina @ 5:05 pm

Dissertation – done!!!

So, once again I’ve been lousy about writing but that’s because all my writing energy was focused on the dissertation, known to me in its final days as The Beast. Let’s recap the month of crackerjack I’ve just finished.

Due to my dental disaster, the school granted me an extension for handing in the dissertation. The trouble was however, that they could not guarantee I would graduate on time if I used the extension. Renewing my visa is dependent on graduating so I was in a bind. So I decided to just work like a monkey and try to crank it out as quickly as possible. This decision was not without buckets of stress and anxiety. I didn’t want to do a shit job of it, considering it was my only master’s degree, but, at the same time, I didn’t want to lose my chance to stay in Scotland next year if I didn’t graduate on time.

I threw myself into it, with little sleep and lots of library time. I set an early deadline of only handing in three days after everyone else had finished. This was impossible. Still, making myself think I had that deadline made me work harder. Of course, it also meant that when I dind’t meet my arbitrary deadline, I felt crushed. This continued for the next two weeks. I worked loads, kept deluding myself about when I would be finished, and had lingering doubt about the whole thing the whole time. Having everyone else be finished while I was still chained to a desk was not always fun but it did mean I could (and did) pester people for proof reading help.

I finally handed it in one day early of the two week extension. While I was putting the finishing edits in the paper, I was also moving and saying goodbye to half the friends I’ve made this year. Oh, and the Festival was going on the whole time and I had visit from a friend from Pittsburgh. It was hard to really focus on goodbyes or the fringe but I did my best. As for my dissertation, I did the best I could there too. I’m not overly in love with it but maybe in a few weeks I can look at it again with fresh eyes.

The important thing is that I’ve finished! Now I need to wait and see if they grade it in time for me to graduate on time. Fingers crossed.

July 29, 2010

dental horrors

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Regina @ 5:07 pm

One night this past weekend, I spent getting good and drunk with friends and ended up walking home from the club alone. The other night, I spent playing in a playground totally sober with friends. On which of these nights did something go horribly wrong?

Oh playgrounds, what did I ever do to you?

Being just ridiculously clumsy, when a game of tag started Sunday night I managed to run and immediately trip over something. I fell basically directly on my face (I’ve been told I hit a giant toy fork? I forked my face pretty bad). As soon as it happened, I knew my teeth were fucked up since I could feel them somewhere in the roof of my mouth rather than where they belong in my gums.

(Just to save you any suspense, I’m ok! Don’t worry!)

An ambulance was called as I kept apologizing to people for ruining the night. Yes, I am that crazy. Even with blood all over my face and hands I was genuinely concerned that I was being a bummer on people’s fun times. The ambulance arrived and whisked Nora and I away to the emergency room. It was a strange ride because I knew I was in shock but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

At the emergency room, I had to swallow some painkillers. Ahhhh, it was nasty. Then the great wait began. When a doctor came to check me out, he let me know that I would need dental surgery and that it would have to wait until the morning when I would be moved to another hospital. Nora and I played cards, listened to Harry Potter, and I enjoyed some morphine at some point. Nora is a saint and stayed with me throughout the whole ordeal.

We were transferred in the morning to a hospital about an hour away. At this point, both of us had been awake for almost an entire day. I’d been oozing blood for about 8 hours. We were not the most with it we’ve ever been. I had some X-rays and the surgeon told me I would be able to keep my teeth. He just had to pull them into place. Yup, pull! My head was held down by the nurse, my gums were pumped full of novacain, and he put his hands in there and yanked them into place. Grossest procedure ever.

After a few more hours of waiting to have a splint made, my prescriptions filled, and riding the bus back to the city, I was finally home. We’d spent twelve hours in the hospitals and hadn’t slept for close to thirty.

The good news is that my teeth are still in my face. They didn’t chip, my jaw isn’t broken, I didn’t break my nose or anything worse. I will probably have to have root canal surgery or else the teeth will turn black and fall out, so I have another appointment next week. The thought of more surgery freaks me out but I’d like to think the worst is over. So far the recovery has been largely painless – full of watching movies and reading and taking my pills.

In my last entry, I wrote that one thing was certain that I would finish my dissertation in a month. Just goes to show you nothing is certain. My supervisors have agreed to give me an extension so that I can take time off from the library to heal.

I still don’t have any of the answers to the doubts that were plaguing me about what I’m doing next but I suppose I can now give myself a few days off from worrying. Time to watch Terminator 2 and gum some mushy dinner!

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