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.


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)!

Family shadows

The Carpet Salesman

All the time people used to tell me, “Cate, you’d be great in sales. You will talk to anyone and you could sell anything!” Today it still rings true. Instead of sales, though, I’ve focused my shift to marketing or a position that lets me constantly interact with people which will ideally cause an increase in sales for the product or company. Because I do not have any formal educational experience in this field, I have been taking a class online, reading books and blogs, and following people on Twitter to learn as much as I can before I return to the States. Something that this research has taught me is the importance of knowing your audience. Yesterday, for example, I helped one of my students set up a website/blog to showcase his photography. We decided to put his website in English because it is good practice for him and he does hope to reach an international audience (at least with a following). I showed him websites of American photographers I like, and he showed me websites of Moldovan photographers he likes and we used the combination of that to put his site together. While I think having a website with a plain background is better and more professional, he chose to put an image in the back because he’s catering to teenagers: they like that (and now that I think about it, I did, too, as a teenager). I thought about also creating him a Facebook and Twitter page, but that would not do much good here in the village… that’s not where the audience is, so therefore he cannot reach future consumers or clients. Within the first few hours of putting a link on his Odnoklassniki account (aka Russian/Moldovan Facebook), he had 327 hits. Bravo, Marin, Bravo!

Then early this afternoon there was a persistent knocking on the door of my host parent’s house. Finally my host mom answered it and shortly thereafter there were voices just outside my room. I assumed some of my host dad’s friends had come to visit, but nope, it was a carpet salesman. My host dad then called me into the living room to help them make a decision. You see, he was certain he wanted to buy a carpet the size of my room for 4000 lei, which meant he got 2 free smaller carpets in return.

My host mom insisted it was a bad idea because she has a carpet she bought a couple of years ago that they haven’t done anything with up to this point, and it was cheaper and prettier than these carpets. With one yes and one no, it was up to me to make a decision. Because I’m leaving in 6 weeks, I said I was indifferent. The salesman used this information to his advantage and went and pulled out the “last” carpet he had and said he’d trade it with one of the smaller ones (still 6x9ish) and my host dad could give it to me to take home to remember Moldova (my host dad really liked this idea).

The salesman kept saying it is a great deal and today is the last day for people over 50 to receive this 50% discount plus free carpet per retiree in each household, and these are the last carpets and they won’t find cheaper or prettier ones in the city. He tried to say they could save these for their kids or send them to where they live abroad (tailoring to their emotional reaction) but in the end, my host mom kept her ground and refused… and my host dad listened.

Carpet salesmen would not be successful in the States because we do not put carpets on our walls to make our homes beautiful. That’s one of the reasons my host dad wanted the carpet… he said other houses have new, beautiful carpets on their walls and he wanted some too for when guests come to the house. But in Moldova, it is common to find carpets on the walls especially in the homes of the older generation, and even more especially in the villages. The older villagers do not frequent the city, so coming to them is the best way to make a sale… and offering them a one-time discount for their age is also an incentive. While it is not ethical, the salesman can say whatever he wants the prices to be in the city because he knows they will not go to compare (I tried to look on the Internet and I found the website but the catalog is not working at this time so I could not see the price difference). Plus, if one does go to the city, they have to bring this HUGE carpet back with them on the small, crowded, public transportation… which is a pain in the neck (literally). This salesman  was doing a great job in targeting the right location, age, and emotional triggers to get my host family to buy carpets they don’t need, but want. If it wasn’t for my host mom’s stubbornness and my host dad’s respect for her decision, the salesman would have sold 3 (because nothing is free) rugs to my family.

In the end, the salesman asked me to take him with me in America when I go home. Twice.  Unfortunately for him, he did not have a good sales pitch prepared for me to buy into that one. Looks like I’ll be going back to America alone!

At peace

What season is it?

High: 85 degrees F
Weather: Sunny
Season: Spring?

It sure feels like summer today and I am not complaining one bit! The transition from the cold, dark, days of winter to the bright, warm, and sunny days of spring makes spring my favorite season. However, I love the heat of summer… so this is perfect! The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and we are on yet anothermini-vacation.

To take advantage of this gorgeous weather on my day off, I bought a hammock. When I was in high school, I fell in love with hammocks. As a graduation present to myself, I bought one and spent hours and nights sitting in it with one of my best friends. On warm summer nights a hammock was the perfect solution to relaxation, and relax is what we did! Then today, I did it again… enjoying the sounds of the birds and the bees (and the moon up above?) and the prehistoric looking insects.

I also enjoyed reading about the New Rules of Marketing and PR on my awesome Kindle.

And I couldn’t help it… the light was too pretty not to take some self snapshots.

MMmmmmhmmm: happiness.




There really are not words to go with this photo, at least for me. My host mom colored her hair last week, and here she is relaxing against a tree as the Priest is doing the traditional Day of the Dead blessings. We waited about 4 hours for him to get to us- but he’d been going for 2 additional hours and had about one more to go.

My host mom is awesome. That’s all.