Cluj & Heritage

We are not the first American/Romanian couple to meet and fall in love, nor are we the first within our church. The third in fact, and not the last. We jokingly call it a tradition and playfully hint to the high school boys that they should go to Cluj after graduation to find a wife, but I don’t think it’s ever actually been a planned pairing.

The first, Jim Foster, went to Romania on a missions trip in the early nineties and was introduced to his wife (of twenty+ years now) by Brian Morgan—the same pastor who was integral in both Vio and my marriage as well as the self-outing of our personal life at church two weeks ago. He now lives in Romania with his wife, Nely, as missionaries for PBC with their two teenage daughters, Rebecca and Rachel.

The second, Johnny Hanneman, met his wife here in the states while she was here for a ‘work & travel’. They have two beautiful boys, Zachary and Joshua, and we are proud to be a part of their lives, not the least because we are Joshua’s godparents. Johnny and Moni are dear friends of ours and often some of the few people we feel that we can really connect with. Vio and Moni are also from the same home town.

We are the third couple, and while we didn’t meet through the church technically, Vio had been to the states multiple times while I was away at college. She met many of the people who knew me growing up and fended off many advances of my peers. Thankfully, she had other ideas about California and spent the time having fun and trying new things. Still, we didn’t meet until I had taken a job offer in Cluj from a family friend wanting to try his hand at coffee roasting. I was his unofficial consultant.

The fourth, and latest couple who have tied the fates of PBC and Cluj closer involve the son of that family friend I had worked for, Eli Brill. He met his wife working for his father’s—Marty Brill—company. He and Otilia (Tia) have been married for just over a year at this point and are still in Cluj, but are planning on coming to live in Silicon Valley. We look forward to growing closer to them as we have to our predecessors, whether in the States or in Cluj.


Needless to say, Transilvania has a special place in ours—and many of our friends’—hearts. We feel at home in Cluj despite it’s radical changes in the past 7 years, and have always known that we would eventually have physical ties to the city.

Our two week trip there in less than a month is when we plan to take that step. Hopefully it will be enough to find and purchase an apartment, and even enjoy it for a couple days, before coming back to the day-to-day grind of Silicon Valley.

That Elephant

Vio talks about the sharing she did last Sunday, but doesn’t really convey the gravity of the situation. The church we go to has what they call “Body Life”, where people in the congregation volunteer to stand up and share with the rest of the people what is going on in their lives and what they need prayer for. However, occasionally, the pastor calls on people who he knows needs to share their needs, whether they may or may not be inclined to do.

This was one such situation. We had just had dinner with Brian—the pastor—a few nights before, and talked at length about how we were doing and where we would like to be going. So naturally, he called on Vio to share. (mind you, I teach Sunday School to two and three year-olds during the service, so I wasn’t there).

Adventure & Dreams

“It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line.” Erma Bombeck

How do you put your dreams on the line? — Sharing them out-loud. And sharing I did last Sunday in front of hundreds of people. Thank you all for listening. I spent the whole next week drained and still.

Ironically, around the time this unexpected sharing happened, a vivid thought lingered in my mind: “I have nothing to say. I have nothing to give”.

Conrad and I stubbornly pursue our dreams, and we seek and embrace adventure in our lives. As a matter of fact, I recently declared to Conrad that I fall in love with him every time we go on an adventure.
Last year he quit his job to pursue self-employment and a long lasting passion for type design. This change got us closer to one of our oldest dreams of trying to buy an apartment in Cluj. And one of our priorities during this trip to Romania in March-April is to setup a home base there, an oasis, a place of rest and a source of blessings for us and many others. A place for life to happen.

Also, for nearly two years we have pondered adoption. It has been an internal journey of wrestling thoughts and emotions. Transparency has been our best friend in marriage, but there has been a time when we tried to protect each other of our own yearnings and pain. Eventually, with open hands, we laid things on the table and feasted together, Conrad and I. We still do. There have been tears. There has been silence. There is plenty wholehearted silly laughter.

Trying to understand the grand scheme of things is not a priority anymore, though I take great pleasure in pondering life.

East Meets West

The details about what is to come will have to wait. Conrad and I will start posting about the same topic from personal perspective.

I met Conrad in my last year in college in Cluj, after I had spent two summers working in the Bay Area as an intern, in a research corporation. I was fourteen when I met Gloria and Debbie through a PBC camp in my hometown – Galati. We kept in touch and, when I had the opportunity to get a work and travel visa to the US, I asked Gloria if I could stay with her. She said yes and went above and beyond with her hospitality, grace and kindness.

PBCC connected with Romania in 1988, before communism fell. These two worlds fell in love with each other, and ‘East and West kiss through every sunset and sunrise’.

While in US I enjoyed being a free spirit, and dating was not on my agenda. Even though I had not yet met him, Conrad had to come to Cluj to meet me in my own world. We fell in love with each other, with our feet on the ground and our eyes wide open. And we had fun. Conrad still makes me laugh every day.

My Beginning

I met Violeta for the first time in January 2007 when I was working as a consultant for a friend’s new coffee venture in Cluj. I had only been there for a week at that point and was still finding my bearings both with the new language and the role I was to play in business.

We struck up an immediate friendship that also quickly grew into a romantic relationship. After only a month-and-a-half, I proposed to her, and she accepted. We spent that spring planning our wedding for the same summer and were wed in July.

Since then, we have been back and forth between San Jose, California, and Cluj both for ourselves and for friends and family, and the city has become part of who we are. Cluj’s official nickname is “Treasure City”, which was bestowed in the late 16th century and referred to the wealth amassed by the citizens. We’re using it as a reference to the trove of memories and relationships that we have made in Cluj over the past 7 years and the many more to come.

This journal is an account of what is to come.