My Time in Cluj (Week 3)

My goodness, I’m exhausted! Today I traveled by bus from Cluj back to Târgu Mureș. Then due to a miscommunication, I ended up walking (hiking) over 2 miles and up a steep hill back to the base, all while toting a backpack, a suitcase, and food. I’m worn out! But, I managed to unpack, do a load of laundry, and eat dinner; this is my current (comfort) state, so that makes me feel a little better.


Last week was primarily spent making art for the base in Cluj. My biggest task was creatively depicting the 18 foundational values of YWAM. I painted the watercolor backgrounds, then sketched and lettered each value. I recruited my housemate Geo (pronounced “Jo”) to help with gluing Bible pages to pieces of poster board. Finally, we glued the watercolor paper to the decorated poster board to create these! (Click on photos to scroll through)

I’ll be posting each value on my Instagram and Facebook pages over the next 3 weeks if you would like to check periodically to see the pieces up close. You can see the Instagram posts without an account.

Making this much art (pretty sure I put in at least 40 hours on this) leaves me completely exhausted — in a good way. With my previous job, I would leave feeling exhausted and not wanting to do anything, ever. I would go home and crash on the couch, lacking the motivation to cook dinner, socialize, or even get ready for bed. Art, however, is rewarding and invigorating; I love that I can do it whenever I want (i.e., not strictly 9-5), and I get excited to come back for more. I’m totally in my happy place when I turn on a podcast, tune out the world, and plug away with each creation. I am interpreting this as a very positive sign as I consider focusing on my art business when I return home!

My afternoons varied throughout the week. Tuesday and Wednesday I taught a worship dance routine to some local boys. I didn’t get to record it, but here is a video from a dance I taught the children at church on Sunday morning. I chose Blessed Be Your Name (Fii Binecuvantat) because I love how universal the song is. Check it out below (so sorry the orientation changes!):

On Thursday, I went with a few staff members to visit some members of the gypsy community that they have chosen to support. We asked if they had any practical needs that the DTS students could fulfill. The team will work to repair the roof for one lady, provide a washing machine for two other families, and do housecleaning for all of them. I won’t post those pictures, but I do want to share a photo of this adorable stray dog we saw. There are lots of stray dogs around; thankfully, they’re very harmless. I have a fear of dogs, but these guys barely even notice us walking by. They simply roam the sidewalks and sleep in the shade.


Not related, but seeing this cat made my day. It looked so content to be sunning and bathing itself in this lush windowsill! (Can you tell I’m much more of a cat person?? 😉 )


Lastly, I want to backtrack a tiny bit to say that we celebrated Miream’s (roommate) birthday last Sunday. We had barbecue, ice cream, and a sweet time of fellowship. They started to brainstorm plans for celebrating my birthday in July (e.g. decorating the “cake”/me), but I don’t anticipate being in Cluj that weekend. We’ll see, though! In the meantime, enjoy some photos of our “kidnapping”.

Coming up next week: Honestly, I have no idea! I imagine we’ll all meet Monday morning and develop a game plan. I’m sure it will be great!

.     .     .

Oh wait, one last photo to add. Since I like to incorporate lettering with each post, enjoy this throwback in honor of Father’s Day last weekend! As my Dad’s cousin says, “That’s why you are in Romania – they had you on an elephant (!) before you even knew what an elephant was!” Thankful for my dad’s unending encouragement and support as I pursue my passions.



Settling in (Week 2)



Lettering piece of the week // I’ve been challenged when I consider all the things I gave up back home to spend my summer in Romania, including Young Adult events, 5Ks with friends, and typical summer activities like parties and beach days. This has been my reminder each time jealousy strikes; there’s a reason I’m here, and I am thankful.

I’ve been struggling with figuring out what to write this week since my brain has been wrought with a tough decision. I’m already being challenged and stretched. I know it’s all good, but I’ve definitely had moments of wanting to go home and hide in a bubble. Overall, I’m starting to settle in and feel more comfortable here in Cluj, so that’s all good! I ultimately decided that I would continue with the virtual tour of Romania, along with some observations over the last two weeks.

Up first: last Sunday I went to small church back in Târgu-Mureș. It felt more like a Bible study than a Sunday service, but I still enjoyed the intimate gathering. I had forgotten how strange it was to listen to the preaching through a translator. Also, I made lunch for everyone, and it was a great success! I was later told that it was also a secret test to see if I was ready for marriage … and I passed!

Monday afternoon, I hopped on a bus to Cluj-Napoca. After arriving, we went to the mall for dinner at the food court. Everyone points out to me every KFC and McDonald’s around. I appreciate the sentiment, but it does make me chuckle. I’m trying my best to eat European food whenever possible. We did, however, go to Starbucks after to discuss potential projects for my time here; I didn’t complain about that visit since I was desperately craving a chai latte.

Tuesday was a day off, thankfully, since the staff was recuperating from the previous week serving with a German team. I had lunch out and then started catching up on the class I’m taking for my lettering business. We spent the evening at the director’s house playing board games. Fun, but he always wins.

Wednesday we got back into action with breakfast and a team meeting to establish a plan for the week. I’m really excited about all the artsy things I’m doing! I’m currently creating watercolor displays for each of the 18 foundational values of YWAM in preparation for the Discipleship Training School (DTS) that’s starting in two weeks.

Thursday and Friday mornings we had meetings again, lunch together, and then did our own things in the afternoons. We all take turns cooking lunch, so Thursday I made chicken and veggies to share. All the girls in my house are finishing up their exams for university, so the schedule is rather relaxed. I usually work on a project, exercise, eat dinner, and then socialize until bed.

Last night, my roommate Miream took me into the city to meet some friends. After, she showed me a beautiful park, the city center, and a few other sites in downtown Cluj.

We live in a village, so we have to travel by car or bus for a lot of the bigger attractions. Luckily, little shops are everywhere, so I can buy groceries whenever I decide to spontaneously cook a certain dish I’m craving. A little earlier today, I went to one store to grab ingredients for pancakes tonight with Miream. I’m pretty excited to try Romanian pancakes 🙂


It’s SO nice to be able to walk down the street to grab groceries whenever I want! || (notice all the cars parked on the sidewalks)

Yesterday I decided to go for a run. Running is my favorite way to explore a new place. However, because the location is unfamiliar, I don’t always know what I’m getting myself into. I ended up hiking a crazy hill for the first half mile … oops! However, the view was totally worth it! And the remainder of the loop was a nice, gradual downhill path. There was a moment where I thought maybe I was trespassing since I was running on a dirt track through fields and I saw a sign in Romanian that I couldn’t read. Thankfully, Miream later reassured me that I’m allowed to be up there. So, I’ll try it again next week!

And finally, today has been spent sleeping in and relaxing. With the way my brain has been processing nonstop, I needed that time to myself. Plus it’s a gloomy day with intermittent rain showers, so all I want to do is cuddle up with tea, chocolate, and a good book. I’m incredibly thankful that I have the ability to do all this.

Coming up next week: We have more preparatory work for the DTS, including setting up the classroom, arranging the bedrooms, installing a coffee maker, and finishing artwork. Also, we’ll make a trip to visit a few gypsy families that the students will support; I’ll take photos and then write a little description of each. I may get to spend a few afternoons doing dance-related activities with local children since school ended yesterday, and the parents will appreciate a break. It’s going to be busy yet rewarding!

Welcome to Romania (Week 1)



I finally saw the new Beauty & the Beast last weekend, and I couldn’t resist lettering this quote before my trip!

My, the last week has been a whirlwind! I spent nearly three full days traveling; I left Harrisburg Monday morning and finally arrived in Târgu Mureș Wednesday evening. The jetlag is strong, but I am still able to enjoy my time here.

There’s not much to share from the traveling, other than that it was super smooth. The airline I flew is my new favorite international airline! It was as pleasant as an overnight flight could be! I was also able to successfully find my way to my hotel in Bucharest on Tuesday and ride the bus to Târgu Mureș on Wednesday. The combination of exhaustion and language barrier had me a little on edge, but I was able to figure it all out with a little help from a few kind individuals. I’m so thankful this is not my first international trip; I would not feel nearly this competent and self-confident without learning these skills while studying abroad in Lithuania.


Caught stepping off the bus in Târgu Mureș.

Thursday was a rainy day, so we drove to the mall and got lunch and groceries. The rest of the day was laid-back, thankfully. I met one girl on staff, Marianna. Alex is another guy, but he’s currently on a trip to Norway. Marianna is a super sweet Ukranian with a heart full of joy at the Lord’s work. The directors of the base, Florin and Florina, are very sweet and have great plans to use my art in the coming weeks. They have an adorable daughter named Nadia.

Yesterday, the sun decided to show up, and it was beautiful! Marianna showed me around town. Of course, stop #1 was the local art store. I just might end up with a few new pens 😉


Art Store #1. I hear there is an even bigger one somewhere nearby!

We walked through the courtyard of an old castle, which led to a yellow brick road. I felt like I was in Oz, but apparently many Romanians are unfamiliar with the story. Those stones led us to this alley. Marianna says this is her favorite street in town, and I can see why! (Click on photos to read caption)

Once we arrived in the town center, we climbed a tower next to the mayor’s house for quite the view! We also got to see some old photos of Targu-Mures throughout the last century.

Aside from that, Marianna showed me some second-hand stores I could visit if I need clothing, the best coffee shops and bakeries, and a fabulous new donut shop.


This looks like a fabulous place to socialize or work on my next blog post!

After Marianna’s tour, Florin and Nadia took me to the plateau. This is one of the biggest and best parks in Romania, so people come from all over … and I can see why! There is this great little outdoor gym space, a zoo, an amazing playground, food stands, mountain biking/cross country skiing/jogging trails, carnival rides, mini golf, go carts, and a trolley to transport you around (though walking is perfectly reasonable). I loved it so much that I went back again today to test out the jogging loop. I imagine it will be within reason to begin training this summer for a marathon.

This morning we spent time cleaning the base, and then Nadia and I played together. They’re all off at a wedding now, so I ventured to the grocery store and bought chicken and veggies to roast for our big meal tomorrow. I’ll spend the rest of tonight relaxing so I can hopefully sleep at a normal hour.

Coming up next week: I head to another YWAM base in Cluj-Napoca. I will travel by bus on Monday and stay there for two weeks. I was informed that they have a Discipleship Training School (DTS) beginning soon, so I will help prepare for that. Most likely, that will involve my art skills in some way. Cluj is a much larger city, so I’m excited to explore on Tuesday!