Oh the People You’ll Meet!

I boarded the plane this morning in a tizzy because I almost missed my first flight due to the Monday-After-Thanksgiving travel traffic I wasn’t anticipating, and then I was waiting on hold for 20 minutes to discuss activating a roaming plan for my phone, and dropping the call as I was boarding the plane. I slept through the 6am flight without a problem and was hoping to sleep through the second one (which was bringing me to Aruba) but that didn’t happen. As I was sending last minute and frantic texts to those who I assume will contact me while I am abroad to alert them of my Google Voice number in case my international plan wasn’t activated, small talk was started with the woman sitting next to me. Three and a half hours later, we had landed in Aruba and never stopped talking.
Our conversation began because I saw an ad for a new Fuji camera that represented the photographer for the beautiful Ballerina Project. I encouraged her to check it out if she enjoys ballet or photography which led us to discussing photography and my time in the Peace Corps. She kept wanting to see more photos which led us both to sharing stories of our past. We talked about the history of our names, and our family members’ names, and what brought us to Aruba. After I told her about My Maria, she told me about her first grade teacher who she will never forget (and bonded with over sharing the same birthday) and then we discussed rings and travel. She told me how her father used to spell her name with an accent at the end (Bette) and her grandkids, and loves won and lost. Finally, she encouraged me not to stop taking pictures.
I truly believe we meet people in our lives because they are needed at that time. I’ve tried so hard to turn photography into a “stage in my life” but she told me I need to keep doing it- and what a better place than Aruba to fuel that fire. I can’t wait to get out and explore the island with this rekindled excitement and I can’t wait to share it with Bette, my new friend. If we never meet again, I hope she knows the impact she had on me. I love sharing the stories of the photos I take and the people I meet, especially when others appreciate them as much as I do, and I love hearing the stories of others because everyone has a story to tell… What’s yours?

How’s that saying go?

You know how the saying goes, “If your nose itches it means someone is thinking of you”? Or maybe it’s “If you sneeze it means someone is thinking of you”. Whatever action goes with the thought, the idea is the same: someone is thinking about you. But have you ever wondered if maybe when you hear a song it’s because someone is thinking of you at the same time you’re thinking of them?

I suppose if that were the case this song would be on repeat on every radio station all the time. Oh, wait. That’s the Christmas playlist.

Of Monsters and Men: LIttle Talks


Dr. Seuss

Encounters at a Coffeeshop

As I was sitting outside of a coffeeshop enjoying this amazingly odd 80 degree October afternoon, I happened to overhear a conversation when I came back from the restroom. The 30 year-old woman, who had previously been talking about her recent career and nasty divorce, said, “It was an incredible experience and it makes my resume look amazing”. Woah. Wait just a minute. PAUSE! I chose to go to the bathroom at the wrong time! But have no fear, Cate, who is rarely afraid to approach people, stopped this woman as she was leaving. I wanted to know just what that experience was. What I’m in the middle of trying to figure out is this thing called life. Does anyone really have it figured out? Well, probably not. Regardless, I wanted to know her secret to that amazing experience that boosted her resume. So I asked her.

Instead of her telling me what the secret was, she asked me what I’m doing now and what I want to do. The answer to that is, “Interning at a marketing company, and considering everything from getting a Master’s degree to learning to make coffee in Paris to buying a franchise”. How do I decide? Mr. Marketer next to me coughed Paris under his breath, and she said experience. What I need to do is make a list of everything that is jumping out at me (ie all of the above mentioned), Pro and Con it, and then go fo

r it. Without the experience the franchise is probably not the best idea, and there is always the possibility to get a Master’s degree. There will also always be franchise possibilities, even though I can just see the potential in this one and the reason to act now. But I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

Of course this is all stuff my friends and family have been telling me for awhile. But sometimes it helps to hear it from a complete stranger who doesn’t know me. I know I’ve written before that advice should be taken with a grain of salt because every experience is different. However, sometimes we hear things we need to hear at that moment because, well, we need to hear them at that moment whether it’s from a successful 30 year-old going through a nasty divorce or a Taylor Swift song. Either way, all advice is encouraged.

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.




The importance of drills

Looking back to my school days, I have many memories (I mean, who doesn’t?), and there are many things I have long since forgotten. However, something I do remember happening at least twice a semester every year were the much anticipated fire and tornado drills. As a student, I always hoped they would happen during a class I was not looking forward to for whatever reason, whether it was the teacher, the students, the material, or a test. Sometimes we, as students, knew they were happening and sometimes we didn’t… which was to prepare us in case there actually was a fire or a tornado. In every classroom we had an evacuation map near the door that told us where we need to go, whether it was to the basement for a tornado or outside for a fire. As elementary school students, we had assemblies where we learned to “stop, drop, and roll”, to feel the door if it was hot with the back of our hands, and to crawl on the ground if there is smoke because the smoke rises. I’d say be second grade these drills had become second nature, so if there ever was a fire, we were well prepared. We also knew we had to be quiet and listen so we knew when we could go back to our classrooms and continue the day, or if we got to go home because something really was wrong (which only happened once, on Halloween, when I was in 2nd grade and there was something setting the alarm off and it wouldn’t stop). When I went to college, we did not have these drills but there were maps placed by every door and in the hallways (except when I went to study in France and we had a real-life scenario where they made smoke come out of a window and a fire truck come to school… but it was just to get us prepared). Needless to say, we were prepared for a real fire or tornado and I believe the amount of drills we had really would keep the school relatively calm in case something real did happen (plus, we rarely knew if it was real or fake so we had to act like it was real every time).

Well, something I noticed when I first came to my school in Moldova is not only do we not have evacuation maps, but we never once practiced what to do in case there was a fire. I’ve heard stories of the students practicing for bomb raids during the Soviet era, but I have never seen any sort of preparation… until today. The teachers were told there was going to be a bell rung 8 minutes before the end of the 4th lesson. It was up to them if they wanted to prepare their students to tell them what they were doing and why or not… and one of my partners chose to tell her students, and the other one did not. As someone came walking through the halls ringing a real bell (instead of pushing the button downstairs that rang the bell throughout the school), the partner I was teaching with told all of the students to stand up, gather their things, stand 2×2, and we were going to silently walk outside. As we were walking down the stairs, some students were walking up… oblivious to what was going on. Some teachers were still standing in the empty hallways chatting, and some had gone outside with their students, who were now running around and playing. There was no order, and for many, no explanation. They just knew they all had to go outside and the bell rung a few minutes early.

The good thing is there has been a drill, and we have a small school with 2 staircases in the main building and 1 in the other, so it’s easy to get outside regardless of what happens. However, this should have been an opportunity to teach the kids the importance of fire safety and organization during the drill.

This just made me realize, though, just how important drills are… whatever the circumstance. Not everyone can stay calm during a stressful and potentially dangerous situation, and the more the routine is practiced, the more it becomes second nature.

cate crandell

The other side

Contrary to popular belief, it is not easy to be a photographer. Sure, buying an expensive camera and lens and putting it in auto does make the possibility of producing a good photo here and there possible… but when you’re working with clients for a short period of time, it is crucial to get great images most of the time.

I’ve been working with one of my students, Marin (who has a blog! check it out!) since I first arrived in Varatic almost 2 years ago. He began taking photos with his cell phone, then enjoyed borrowing my camera when I would let him (lessons included), and now he has one of his own. So, the other day I was feeling really good about myself and I realized I needed to take some photos… not of someone else… but of me.

Being on the other side of the camera is something every photographer needs to do at least once a year. I forgot how uncomfortable it can be having your picture taken when not being silly with friends… and when you’re the only one! I’m really comfortable around Marin, but it still took me some time to warm up and become comfortable having a camera pointed at me.

This experience also reminded me that we are our own worst critic, and angles really are important.

I have a new Facebook page!

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)!