I am hopelessly optimistic.

The little boy just paid us a visit. After playing nicely in the snow at -5° Celsius: “boys vs. girls”, building “baza”, sledding, Conrad invited the boy up for hot chocolate. He politely declined but an hour later his grandma called that he would like to come up. He never drank the hot chocolate, but everyone else did. We played Telephone, laughed out loud with the grandparents, (Conrad spiced up the telephone game with silliness) he explored all around our apartment and we let him. It was a very redeeming pleasant experience.

A lifetime ago it seems, we all started living our lives in different corners of the world. All of a sudden, living in such proximity in an adjustment in itself.

Rough day

Two people were arguing about a stone. One was adamant that the stone was round. The other was set to make the point that the stone was blue. And they still don’t see eye to eye.

After everything I learned and practiced, to communicate, to mediate, to see reason, to successfully appease the most tense circumstances with cool and persuasion, I am humbled. And realize that I have set forth to do a lot, fast and based on my own strength. Such naiveté. The heart is willing but the flesh is weak. I am discouraged or better said saddened that some things and relationships will never be perfect in this world.

Everyone around us is very opinionated, especially about how and what we should do. And protocols and propriety are highly regarded. And we fall short. Of most everything. Disappointing others is almost familiar and comfortable as we just let go.

I am tempted to say that there is a world of people out there who love us, appreciate us, like us exactly the way we are, more so, they believe in us and think we are cool… but they are there and we are here… so I quietly roll with the punches.

I realize that nothing has taken me by surprise, but the cold shower, no matter how ready I am for it, it’s still painful. At first.

Christmas caroling 2014

It’s been seven years since I last went caroling. It was a magical (better than I remember) night, mainly because the joy of Christmas and caroling was lived through their eyes, voices and hearts of little kids.

We were up till midnight. The littlest one, Iris was asked by her dad: shall we continue caroling? to which she answered joyously: “Cantam!”

Worth mentioning is the fact that Conrad survived the energy of over 10 kids on a sugar-high.

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The Cost of Doing Business in Romania

We’ve been planning this step into the business world for a long time now, perhaps I’ve even been dreaming about it longer. I think all of the hesitation I had in the States that came with every thought of starting something was due to the state of the industry there. I had jumped into the Specialty Coffee industry early (not much more than a subculture) but I hadn’t been in it from the very beginning; at least not like the people that I was working with. I’ve always been intimidated, no, that’s not the right word, maybe uneasy, of others’ passion for coffee, not because they had more than I did, but because it seemed to me to be more warranted. They’d struggled through the beginnings of the “third-wave”, trying to convince people to spend twenty dollars on a bag of coffee instead of ten, because it was vastly better, not just better marketed. That they’re taste in coffee was outdated (yes, I know that that’s the wrong way to educate people, but we didn’t know that).

I feel that stepping into the industry here in Romania has been a bit of a time-jump. There are many things about the interactions here remind me of the beginnings of the trek uphill in California, and of the familial closeness of “competing” roasters and cafes here. You may think, “But the model has already been set, aren’t they just following a script?” To a degree, yes, the script has been written, but only in the sense that the mistakes have been made and the knowledge is less of a fight to get to. I’d compare it more to the relationship of two siblings, years apart. The elder paving the way, the younger emulating, but with no less passion (in many ways, more).

There will be a fight. Not to sell the most grinders, or pouring kettles, or home espresso machines, because all of those things aren’t ultimately necessary to make good coffee, or even to enjoy not-good coffee. The battle will be educating people about why the coffee they’re drinking tastes the way it does; which involves letting them taste something different, either a different brand, or a different preparation method. Fighting to communicate with them from the point of view of an outsider, however knowledgeable though ultimately naïve and green in the industry. Fighting the bureaucracy of an unfamiliar system, the expectancies of a culture that is used to hand-outs if they know your first name.

…I’ll compare it to water polo, which is one of those pseudo cross-over sports that is known on both sides of the pond. You’re trying to throw the ball into the net, guarded by someone almost as big as the net, while trying to stay afloat only with your legs, while getting kicked under the surface and splashed in the face above. …All while wearing a speedo.

But we have our stamp. So there’s that…

Confidence and humor

We drove 17 km up in the wilderness to visit a friend. We sat down with a glass of water each, and talked. He used to intimidate me. A lot of important and well put together people used to intimidate me. I never showed it, but I always thought there is something I am missing, I’m not aware of, I’m not doing right. Almost all women wear very high-heels, makeup, sexy skits and younger men compete in fashion with them. But something changed over the last 10 years. I am comfortable in being different, casual, friendly and always hopeful for intelligent conversations. Confidence has a new meaning to me. I am not chasing the rhythm of others, my rhythm is perfectly fine.
The man we visited asked “so, do you plan to have kids?”. Conrad and I looked at each others and smiled: “Yes. One of the main reasons for our move is that we want to adopt from Romania”. (Yes. I did work back in the States. Yes, I had a great job which I loved. Yes, I am a US citizen. No, I am not getting a job here; we own our own business.)

It was a good visit. There was room for some transparency and time to discuss.

For the last two weeks we listened, watched, visited, and made some progress. We spent a buttload of money so far, getting comfortable in our home, met great people, in the most unexpected circumstances and very serendipitous.

The odd part is that I expected all the hardship and more. I knew what I was getting myself into, and there was a part in me that hoped some things would be easier. And some really were. Some were harder, mainly because I try too hard. A quote about success rings true: “success is not about working harder but about working smarter”.

We shall start taking pre-orders. The meeting with the accountant, which moved impromptu to La Tribunal over Proseco and a platter of cheese, was successful even though we only made some decisions and talked. It put my mind at ease.

All in all, besides the Belief which fuels us along Passion, I think Humor is the best next thing. I can’t boast it comes to me naturally, but I reap it’s benefits and I welcome it. I may finally learn to initiate it and take things lightly.
I can’t leave it all to Conrad.

Noua Generație

This group.
We step slowly – it’s a holy ground.
Authentic.
Their hearts on fire.
There is room for everyone.
Room for being true.
Room for tears,
for laughter,
for singing,
and spontaneity.
There is comfortable room for us.
We feel loved
Though we barely entered this place.
Jesus is present.
I smile in my heart
As I have seen the world
And yet I got the chance to come back
And feel it again.
I have mixed feeling
about being here.
It appears that people have keys to all my back doors.
What made me special for many years
In the eyes of my pbc family
makes these people even more special.
They are brilliant
And wholehearted.
Talented and beautiful.
Genuine, loving and kind.
They are all wise beyond their years.
I feel so privileged to be around them.
Generatia Altfel.
God is at work,
and he delights in these hearts.
He loves these people with joy
in simplicity and genuine hardship.
Life is so hard and so beautiful here.

The joy and challenges of adaptation

As we establish a rhythm of life in Cluj, I inevitably compare and contrast it with the last time I had to adapt to the Californian home I now miss. It took me months to figure out the stores where I could shop comfortably, and to get cooking. My food only tastes good when I cook with my sixth sense.
It also took me a long time to built great friendships and for many years we felt alone as a couple – it takes flexibility and vulnerability and courage to build relationships with other couples. It’s tricky.
I had girlfriends but we were all figuring out life separately. And if we saw each other once or twice a month it was a treat.

Over the last two years we started to really harvest the riches of patiently building friendships, respecting each others’ rhythms and at the same time bravely reaching out. I have made friends at work as well. The friendships became what they were (relaxed, transparent and funny) only in the last few years. Some good things take time…

We feel very special here in Cluj. In many ways things are so much easier. Conrad and I are shoulder to shoulder, and many friendships we are just continuing at a different pace, in longterm context.

I had the privilege to get together with a few different groups of girls, and they are all so beautiful inside and out: self-aware, wise, genuine, funny, hard working and down-to-earth. Industrious and driven.

As we took care of business this past week, Conrad asked: “where are all the men?” because we dealt with mostly women: sales directors, bankers, lawyers, notaries, accountants… There is a crazy sense of courage in us.
Much like a good manager, sharing the responsibilities and subtly delegating is the secret to long term happiness, as you get to truly share in the success (in professional and personal contexts).

We are not waiting to figure everything out before we start living. It’s all happening right now.

Credinta unui Caine

We arrived in the stress of the season,
people tense, the streets congested,
fighting in preparation for a time of joy,
passion to be tested.

We arrived with grand plans,
both near and far our dreams,
eager to find a foothold,
our fear on our sleeves.

Through grace our dread unfounded,
blessings of friends and community,
have welcomed our dreams openly,
our breathing now more deeply.

We stroll through the frost now,
hand in hand, alongside our friend,
who, though homeless and hungry,
frolics, is happy and fed.

First “Snow”

We took a little walk the other morning to see the first “snow” that had accumulated the night before. It didn’t last til noon, and the mud added two pounds to each step, not to mention ten minutes per boot in cleaning later. But the walk was brisk, and we were joined, as usual, by Linda.

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