And then… and then… there was TODAY!

Life has a tendency of handing out lemons that I cannot use for lemonade because I want to make the best lemonade and I don’t know how to do that with advice (err, a good recipe). In other words: sometimes it’s a challenge to be optimistic all of the time and this frustrates me. I move 1 step forward then 10 steps back and I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere and then I don’t feel like myself and I’m unhappy and then disappointed… And then… And then… And then I have a day like these last 24 hours.

You see, for the last 3 1/2 weeks I have been looking for a ring that means the world to me. I thought it was taken out of my car when I left the top down and maybe forgot to lock the glovebox… But before I had to tell my family it was gone I had to know I looked EVERYWHERE. And I did. Except for under the couch, which is where I found it. Why was it there? I’m really not sure and that’s not even important anymore because it’s no longer relevant. That success of finding it, though, took a weight off my shoulders and reminded me to persevere until I find the answer… And I did… Just when I was ready to give up. You’d think that would be enough excitement to get me through the month. Nope. That was just the beginning of today (well, yesterday).

After finding the ring, I started browsing Craigslist for potential living situations beginning sometime from two weeks from now to the beginning of December-ish. I responded to a couple of ads and got one reply. The reply was from a girl who lives in a loft downtown (on my bucket list!) but wants to be closer to her work.. And her roommate? A guy I had a few French classes with at KU. Either it’s a small world, I know a lot if people, or it’s Kansas. Regardless of the answer to that, it seems to work out nicely for both of us. We know each other and I get to live downtown for a few months in a loft! #score

And the good day still isn’t done! Then I had an amazing day tweeting and learning at a conference for work today. If you have a twitter account and would like to know more about Social Networks for Non Profits, search #socialirl. I had a blast taking notes on what the speakers were saying via my tweets.

After the conference I had a rather spur of the moment interview for a part-time position at Apple to be in addition to my internship (fingers crossed but no guarantees!) and then got to play soccer mom for a 5 year-old. As I put him to bed he said, “I love you” which means a lot coming from a kid who isn’t even mine! Then his parents came home and opened another door for a potential job. I love the people I work for, wither it’s the kids I watch (and their parents) or my co-workers. People rock!

On TOP of all of this, it was 85 degrees and sunny. What a whirlwind of an amazing day. Sometimes timing and patience is everything because this feeling of making the right decision and letting things happen feels great.

I did it!

The Reward of Goal Setting

I remember my first thoughts as I was coming to visit my village in Moldova for the first time. I was nervous to meet what would be my new host family, to see the village, and anxious to get the whole Peace Corps thing “actually” started. However, when Moldovans in my first village found out I was going to live “in the north”, they gave me a less than favorable preconceived notion of it being poor and dirty. So, needless to say, I was having mixed emotions during the 4 hour journey from the capital. On top of that, the weather was overcast and dark, which means I was not in the best of moods. But then the further north we traveled, the more sunflowers there became (which is my favorite flower, in case you didn’t know). The villages all pretty much looked the same to me… until we turned the corner to enter Varatic.

If I was tired at this point, I don’t remember anymore because every feeling I had was transferred to awe. There is a bridge that goes over a river to enter the village, with tall walls of rocks where the river has made its way through them carving its path. I looked at the Director of our school who was traveling with me and I told her I could not believe this is where I was going to live for the next two years… it is so beautiful.

Little did I know that the beauty in the nature of Varatic would help me get through very difficult times. Now, as I’m wrapping up my time here, it has helped me once again.

You see, I went to a barbeque my first official night with my host family back in August 2010. There were rocks across the river from where we were sitting, and he was searching his brain for the English he remembers to tell me the rocks look like a lizard (we finally settled on alligator… close enough). But when I looked at the back of the alligator, I noticed something that looked like a monument at the very top. He said it was a memorial, and later I found out it is a memorial to go with a legend, and I’ll get to that in a minute. Soon, I had a goal: to get to the monument before I left the village.

When my dad visited in August, we tried to get there. However, before we knew it the sky turned dark and was threatening rain, and I did not want to risk my camera getting soaked, and there was still at least a good 45 minutes till we would arrive there, or a 30 minute walk home. We turned around and went home, which was just in time because then the rain came. So, we were dry and my camera was safe, but we still didn’t see the monument.

Now it’s May, and I have just a few weeks until I am leaving Varatic, and I still haven’t seen the monument. I’ve since learned that is called “the love rock” because the legend says a young couple wanted to get married and their parents didn’t approve, so they jumped off of the rocks to their deaths in the river, so they could be together for eternity. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, but that’s the story. So, walking home with one of my friends the other day I told her about the goal I had set, and she told me she’s never been there either, and we should go together. However, she said she wasn’t going to walk because it will take too long, and she just got her driver’s license so she wants to drive. That didn’t thrill me too much because I felt like it was the easy way out, and I’ve waited two years for this, so instead we compromised on a raft, which would take us across the river and then it was up to us to walk to the top.

When we got to the base of the rocks, I began to ask myself, why in the hell did I decide to do this again? … and then again about halfway up, why in the hell did I decide to to this again?. We were making our own path, falling down at times, getting scratched by thorns, and the hill was very steep. Plus, we forgot water, so we were unprepared (Irina did bring a change of clothes, though, for a photo session. Oh boy). Anyways, I was losing my breath, thirsty, and kind of wishing I’d stayed home where I was feeling cranky, lonely, and missing life in Kansas.

But then I saw the monument peeking over the last bump, and I turned around and saw where we’d come from: the village that has been my home for two years. My breath that was gone from not being in shape was back all of a sudden, but I was speechless. That goal that I set to reach the monument was finally reached.

My two years here feels like it was summed up pretty damn well with that one little 30 minute hike. I’ve learned to compromise and be patient when it comes to decision making and setting goals. The journey has for sure had it’s hard times and I’ve often lost my breath and thought to myself, why in the hell did I decide to do this again, and I’ve wanted to turn around and go back to where I am in my comfort zone, no matter how I feel or what I’d leave behind. I’ve fallen down, I’ve been scratched, bruised, hurt, and unprepared. I’ve learned not to judge people on first impressions, and I’ve learned to love. I’ve made my own path.

But in the end, the feeling… the reward… of reaching a goal I’ve waited so long for, and worked so hard for, reminds me once again why.

You need to do it for yourself to truly feel it.



Picking cherries

Cherry picking

As I looked over at the cherry tree that takes over the grassy area between my house and my host parents’ house, I told my host mom we needed to get a ladder out to reach the ripe cherries at the top of the tree. She told me a ladder isn’t necessary, which shocked me because the branches do not look very sturdy. When she saw my perplexed look she asked me if I’d ever climbed a tree before, and I told her I had, but I thought the branches looked weak. She said the tree could hold me. I took that as a challenge and went inside, put on my shoes, and found a bag where I could put the ripe cherries from the top of the tree.

Then, up I went. I was surprised at just how sturdy the branches were and my determination to get the best cherries of the bunch… until my host mom told me enough was enough and there will still be cherries there tomorrow and, in fact, they’ll be even better tomorrow because they will be riper (more ripe?).

When I got both of my feet back on sturdy ground I asked her if she wanted any of the cherries (because I thought I’d picked enough for both of us). She looked at me, chuckled, then said she has a tree for cherries if she wants them.

My freshly picked cherries then became all mine, and they were the perfect snack for me as I sat outside and read for a couple of hours with my babies sitting next to me.




The little things

Yesterday I had coffeetime chat with Tim McDonald, a man I met on Twitter who loves not only connecting with people, but also connecting people (if you missed the chat, you can find it here).

One of the questions he asked me is what are the biggest things I’ve learned since being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova. In all honesty, I could probably write a trilogy on this topic, given I won the superlative “Most Changed’ at our close of service conference last week. Because of course I had to narrow it down, I told him “time heals everything,” “first impressions don’t always matter,” and “kids are kids around the world”. Later on he reminded me something he’s learned: it’s the little things that make the experience.

And you know, he’s right (I forgot about that… because again… trilogy… hard to narrow it down). Today was a little reminder.

I came to school to teach the second lesson, taught it, then went to a room that is supposed to be the Teacher’s Room (but it is rarely occupied so I like to call it Cate’s Quiet Space) so I could read during my lesson off. Once the bell rang to let the students out of the 3rd lesson, I went back upstairs to get ready for the second graders. The door was locked and all of the students were waiting outside, and I was almost tackled by each and every one of those 22 kids (not joking. EVERY one) as they yelled, “MISS CATE! HOW ARE YOU??!!”. Then, because my key was locked on the inside so I was waiting for my partner, I stood with the kids who continued to switch off, wrapping their little arms around my waist and my arms and holding my hands. They are just so cute and oh man, I’m really going to miss them.

Here is a video they helped me put together to apply for a job (that I didn’t get but it’s ok because I have found an amazing internship in digital marketing in Kansas City that I begin as soon as I get home in August!!!!)

When my lessons for the day finished, one of my neighbor girls, Tudorita (who I now call Dora). She asked if she could come over this afternoon after she ate, and I couldn’t say no. She loves playing with my iPad and this time we whipped out Hangman so we could practice spelling words in English (I love mixing technology and education). Hopefully the spelling mistakes she made will help her remember how to spell the words in the future.

Cate Crandell: Here's the world!

College re-do

Having a better idea of where my future is headed, there are many things I would change about the way I approached my college career. You see, I chose the University of Kansas because it was not far from home, they have a top journalism program and I wanted to study advertising, my boyfriend went there, my friends were all going there, and it was the only school I actually applied to (but given all of the above reasons for wanting to attend, it

was a sure choice, regardless). To add to the above reason of choice as location, I must also say that I had many steady babysitting jobs and I wanted to continue the photography business I began as a high school student, because these were the two things that funded my entertainment and eventual travels. However, I was very stubborn and prideful.

I was accepted into the William Allen White School of Journalism (aka J-school) for my sophomore year and by the time the year was finished, so was I with the program. Instead of wanting to use my resources to my advantage (such as people and classes), I just wanted to have a degree (because these days it doesn’t matter what degree you have as long as you have a degree, right? Um, wrong). I felt that the program was more focused on priding themselves on being number one than teaching me to be number one. Plus, at least in the first two semesters of classes, the focus was on working for someone else and not for myself… and I just wanted to work for myself. But instead of quitting school and doing what I wanted to do which was attend photography workshops across the country, I changed my focus to just getting that degree and getting done… which meant making my second major, French, be my first and only major. This was great because it took me abroad to France and then other countries, I met wonderful people that I am still in touch with today, and, with a little bit of re-immersion, I can still speak conversational French. And, hey, I have a degree!

But that degree really is not getting me anywhere today other than allowing me to apply for jobs that require a degree. Now I no longer want to be a photographer full-time, but instead I want to work for another (get this) company where I can help them be stronger by using my communication skills. Unfortunately, however, a resume does not ask for a transcript or a set of life experience. A resume and a job listing requirements list ask for an education background and work experience. These are things that, if I had been thinking properly or even advised properly, I could have changed (although it is quite possible I was just stubborn and didn’t listen to the people who were trying to tell me otherwise… ooooh hindsight!).

Stemming from this article titled: The 3 Golden Rules for College Entrepreuners by Andrew Bachman, I’ll tell you what I would re-do (and keep the same) in regard to helping my future, whether it be as an entrepreneur for a small business, or wanting to work for someone else.

Get a degree that matters
Whether you want it to or not, the degree obtained really does matter. The degree you get will teach you important concepts and vocabulary terms that will make entering into the job field easier. The Arts are wonderful… I’m a strong supporter of them (I’m a French major and a photographer) but if you want to sell your work and market your showings and performances, you have to know how to do that. This is not something you will learn in those classes… so take the extra time and get two majors. 

Pay attention to what is being taught  
There is a reason we have to take the classes that are part of every major, no matter how absurd they may seem. This is because someone thinks they will be helpful in the future. History and politics are difficult subjects for me because I find them rather boring, thus I did just enough work to get by at the time. However, they are a very important part of our world, and it is important to know about them to contribute to (and understand) conversations that happen every day. I repeat: conversations that happen EVERY DAY. If you want to be able to take part in conversations, you have to know what people are talking about. A great way to do that is to take a wide variety of classes and also read and never stop reading.

Use your resources
Professors are there to help you. Yes, they have their own lives and many times they would probably rather be sitting on a terrance and enjoying a beer on a beautiful spring day than sitting in their cold basement office that smells funny, but their job is to be there for you! Take advantage of that. Ask them questions. They are experts at the subjects they are teaching, so dig into their brains and use their knowledge to help you. But not only that, they have life experience that may help you even more than their lessons. And network with your fellow classmates. People are awesome… so get to know them. Yes, all of them (even the “weird” ones). Everyone has something they can offer to your life in one way or another (and social media helps that a lot to keep those connections and help relationships grow!)

Have fun
College is supposed to be hard… and if it’s not, take the initiative to make it harder (but not so hard that you stress yourself out to no end. There is a line.). Sometimes, in fact, the life lessons are harder to learn than the material. But it is important to enjoy your college experience. Chances are there is never again a time when you will have an experience like you do in college, so, when starting (or continuing) a business, try not to focus ALL of your attention to it. Your classes are important, as are the relationship you build with other people. If you focus all of your attention to your growing business, there is a chance you’ll miss out on something bigger. 

To wrap up, I do want to say that I did not completely butcher my college career and I did do some of the things I advised. Where the majority of my education comes from now, though, is my life experience. Because what I thought I was doing right in college has now proven to be wrong, it is up to me to teach myself and use my resources to research and power my future career. If I could re-do college, I would take my 25-year old me advice and stick to Journalism and/or Business and take the concepts of what I learn (even if aimed at working for a company) and apply them to my photography (and even babysitting) business… and seek advice before making big decisions.
Yellow scooterKU’s J-School really is a great school, and if I would have stayed in for that additional year I would have seen it, because now many of my J-School acquaintances have wonderful careers. So, due to my past choices, I know it will take me a little bit longer to get where I want to go and there will be more baby steps to get there, but I will get there. College taught me the importance of making good decisions because they will definitely show up in the future… welcomed or not… and everything is on the path to success (even if it’s a failure, because even that becomes a success if something is learned and something is changed)!


It’s amazing what a year does

One year ago Pavel, the love of Maria’s life, died.
One year ago, his funeral was difficult to attend because his death was unexpected and it was so apparent in Maria’s face just how much pain she was going through.

One year later, Maria is smiling:
One year ago, the Priest was greeted with tears as guests waited outside in the unexpected cold weather (and snow flurries):
One year later, the Priest entered the home and was greeted with smiles and laughter and warm weather, with guests waiting outside because it was warmer to be outside than inside, where we would be commemorating his death/life/soul:

One year ago, this room was empty except for a casket where Pavel was resting inside, a small table for food and wine, and a grieving friend.
One year later, it was filled with food, friends, and a loving ceremony blessing in which everyone present said prayers and blessed his soul.
…Once the ceremony was finished, it was time to eat (and drink, because what is a Moldovan masa without wine!?)

One year ago, the road was cold, dark, and it seemed so lonely:
One year later, sometimes it may seem like there is no one on the road with you, but even if you are the only one on the road, you’re still on the road… so keep on moving. At least the sun is shining!
Even though I no longer am greeted by HELLO AMERICA! as I enter Maria’s house, I am now greeted with a smile and a, OH, HELLO CATE! from Maria. I still love this couple, even if the couple is technically a single now.
So much can change in just ONE YEAR. Let it change. Let it happen. Because it will, no matter what.

Outhouses and my new house

Buna seara! (Good evening!) Check out the toilet- for which I have an awesome story.
When I first arrived, my host sister, Nadea, was giving me a tour of the house. She speaks English incredibly well, so it has made my adjustment that much better. I had been told time and time again that the chances of having an outhouse were pretty high. In fact, it would be odd if the home where I was staying did not have one. So, I’d like to say I was mentally prepared when she said, “the toilet is outside”. Unfortunately, though, I did not have to use the restroom until it was dark outside, so when I went to try to remember which gate lead to the outhouse, I forgot. Along comes Nadea with a flashlight (thank goodness!) to show me the way. She helps me open the gate, then shines the flashlight in the direction of the toilet (a hole between 2 boards. literally). My thought was she was then going to walk out and wait for me, but no, she says, “Don’t worry, I won’t look” as she is shining the flashlight on me. Ok, that’s great, I don’t want to fall in. As we were leaving she says, “You have great legs!”
Welcome to Moldova- where privacy doesn’t exist.
… now that’s a story for the storybooks.