Hello All, I’ve been told that it is high-time I introduce myself. So, without further ado, here I am: Jen. I moved here last year from California. The story is long and it is hard to tell where it begins—so we can save that for another day. What matters now is that I’m here now. I’ve lived in many cities and travelled quite a bit. But this one has really touched my heart, and I am proud to call it my new home. It is a unique place, with great opportunities for life and progress.
Watching Liberty Technology Park, which hosts Spherik Accelerator, growing into a thriving community has impressed upon me even more the strong technical talent that Romania, and especially Cluj, boasts. As we bring on-board international collaborators, a lot of people have asked me “What’s it like living in Romania? In Cluj? What’s so special about it that you now call it home?”
So, I present to you: 5 things I love about Cluj:
1) The biodiversity: there is no point trying to hide it. Everyone I meet eventually learns, I love birds and trees, snakes and frogs, and everything in between. Except spiders. And mosquitoes. And ticks. Essentially any blood sucking insect is not on my friend list. When I first came to Romania to visit, some 3 years ago, I traveled all around Romania, from the Carpathians to the Delta the Black Sea. Everywhere I went there was amazing wildlife. Traveling the Transalpina I found donkeys. In the Delta, my breath was taken away by all the birds. I also met some donkeys there. (I’m a big fan of donkeys.) Almost every weekend I find myself exploring the beautiful ecosystems around Cluj, from forest, to prairie, to mountain, to river, and everything in between. Even in the city, I have found rare birds and a cornucopia of life. Over the spring and summer I took great delight in surveying the nesting sites of the white storks around Cluj; I was so lucky to witness a baby taking his first flight.
2) The colors, architecture, and culture: to me, Cluj is a beautiful city. The buildings are so colourful and unique. Many cities I have lived in are monotone: grey concrete, everything the same shape and size, no architectural variation or detailing. Sometimes when I walk through Cluj, on the cobblestones, surrounded by such color, with the music of the city all around, I look up to a perfect sky and suddenly feel as if I in a perfect painting or on an opera stage—even more so when there is beautiful music playing in the square. Each week there seems to be a festival, an opera, a concert, or a theatre production for us to enjoy. I’m especially looking forward to TiMAF (Transylvania International Music and Art Festival) next month.
3) The green space: how lovely it is to be in a city full of plants and parks. Cluj is one of the greenest cities I have ever lived in. I’ve fallen in love Botanical Gardens, where I always find something new to delight me. And you never know what to expect at Central Park—will there be a festival, or a gentleman walking his rabbit?
4) The food: I’ve really developed a taste for Romanian food! Among my favorite restaurants: Hanul Dacilor and the Vărzărie. I never knew cabbage could taste so good! I’ve even learned to make sarmale and varza la Cluj, which I am happy to report were quite a hit with my family and friends in America. I’ve also been busy making some pickles with vegetables from my garden as well as from the farmers market, using a traditional recipe that includes wild cherry leaves that we plucked from our back yard.
5) Holiday Celebrations: I moved to Cluj last November, and quickly saw the holiday spirit. Though coming to a new country was sometimes a bit overwhelming, seeing the Christmas cheer helped a lot. I had never before had hot wine. Walking in the snow with my sweetheart, sipping hot wine and enjoying roasted chestnuts, I felt a sense of peace and love. This year, we made visinata (a traditional cherry liquor), which will be waiting for our friends at the Spherik holiday party.
And because I think this is a very special place, as well that I like to save the best for last, I will give you “6”: the people. When you’re young, you want adventure and new excitement. Somehow, the grass always seems greener on the other side. But I’ve moved around enough that I have realized that the quality of your life is not defined by where you are, but by who you spend it with and what you spend it doing–which is why I am so grateful that I have the chance to be a part of the Spherik team as we embark on this new initiative.
People often ask whether I miss back home–of course I do. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my family and miss them dearly. But sometimes life takes you places you didn’t expect, and my path led here. So would like to thank all the people who so warmly welcomed me– my new, expanded family, my colleagues and our collaborators, my new friends, and the wider community. Though it was cold outside when I came last year, the pálinka was warm and the people even warmer. As we launch our program this November, I look forward to meeting even more amazing people.
PS: Here are some more birds and some goats.