Today's Treasures

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About Me


Hi there and welcome! I'm a San Francisco photographer armed with a Nikon and a case of wanderlust. When I lost my job, I decided to embark on a journey, both literally and reflectively, to capture what people treasure most in life. Read more about my story here...


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What We Treasure in India: My Goat  

A warm and fuzzy post to start the work week. Learn more about my stop to a small village in Rajasthan, India. Read more here...

New photos of India have been added to the photo gallery. Click here to experience what I consider to be one of the most stunning landscape in the word!



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Entries in whatwetreasure (6)


Mumbai in Photos

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What We Treasure in India: My Goat

Children's hearts are so pure. They speak from a place that knows no words. While he spoke no English, and I spoke no Hindi, this little boy from a small village in the western desert of Rajasthan was more than pleased to show me his goats. He plopped the soft, baying babies on my lap and giggled with glee when I would kiss them on the nose. He would point to his eyes whenever he wanted to tell me something and although we couldn't speak, I felt like I had an entire conversation with him, just heart-to-heart, from one child to another...

What do you do that makes you feel like a child again?


What We Treasure in South Africa: Tea Bags?

"A woman is like a tea bag, you only know how strong she is when she is put in hot water."  Eleanor Roosevelt

Jill Heyes, founder of Original T-Bag Designs, is a strong woman of immense creativity and compassion. I felt fortunate to meet her, and her employees, at the Original T-bag Designs factory outside Cape Town, South Africa. Through the transformation of something as simple as an "old bag", both her life and the lives of the Imizamo Yethu are transformed forever. I hope her story inspires you to the possibilities within us all. 

Her story, as well as those of the Imizamo Yethu, is told directly in the video below. Warning: grab tissues!

For more information or to support Original T-Bag Designs, go to or Jill happily accepts donations of used tea bags. 


What We Treasure in Budapest: Riding the Waves

"They say these waters cure all sorts of diseases if you drink it," my personal tour guide Janos shares with me. He shrugs and says he prefers regular water, as we stand in line at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, the end of our comprehensive eight-hour, multi-mile, 100 -degrees-with-hmidity tour of Budapest. 

Janos is a handsome student in his 20s who studies commerce by day, works a graveyard shift at a hotel by night, and sometimes gives personal city tours. He says the tours, which he is very good at, were his brother David's idea. David is hosting me through AirBNB and I'm staying at David's apartment. 

The woman behind the counter barks something to Janos in Hungarian. It's sold out today, but Janos insists it's something I should do while I'm in Budapest, especially the wave pool.

The first wave pool was designed and built in Budapest in 1927. Bath culture is huge in Hungary, brought over by the Turks in the 1500s. It's thrived in large part because of Hungary's estimated 1,300 underground thermal springs. Water from these springs are claimed to heal everything from aches, to low metabolism, to arthritis. But can they cure me of heat exhaustion?

The next day, swimsuit and sunblock in tow, I make my way back to Széchenyi Baths. It's a complex so large, it has it's own map. Winding through the mazes of lockers, gyms and massage rooms, I finally arrive at the main pool area where I hear sounds of splashing and laughter coming from the center of the pool. I had found the wave pool. 

The wave pool is like a donut placed in the middle of the pool with a static hot tub in the center. I dipped my body slowly into the water, it was warm and the water was soft. I tentatively entered the wave pool, but was quickly swept into it with a swoosh. The waves pushed me forward and before I knew it, I was in the middle of it.  

Everyone in the wave pool was smiling, laughing, participating. Hungarian woman with their strong beak noses, gap teeth and raspberry-colored hair were gliding along with the waves. Little old ladies in their black-one piece bathing suits, swim goggles and blue hair caps were bobbing along like rubber duckies in a bathtub. Old men in Speedos, with gold cross necklaces dangling down their hairy chests, weave in an intoxicated manner like drunks stumbling home from the bar. The faint smell of hot dogs from the cafeteria hangs in the air. Around they go, a human Merry-Go-Round, swirling, twirling, wobbling up and down. Under a fountain outside the wave pool, a chubby kid in glasses keeps watch like a hawk. Sometimes he smiles his cheshire cat grin and nods to his friends, as if giving his approval...

Approval, disapproval, who's watching, who's not. It's still ingrained in the Hungarian culture, even after the fall of communism over 20 years ago. Over beer and spritzers (wine mixed with soda water), David confided that distrust is still prevalent, even among the younger generations.

This wasn't confined to his opinion but a shared sentiment. One person I met didn't trust fellow Hungarians to drink responsibly, another didn't trust them to spend responsibly, no one trusted the government. Police roam the streets, parks and Metro. "When we had our gay pride parade," Janos told me, "they had them march down the streets behind a fence."

Another round in the wave pool I go, like a needle undulating against an old record. A group of rowdy teenage boys in boxer shorts enter the pool. Some swim forward, some try to swim backward without much luck. SWOOSH! Waves pull them under and they cackle with laughter. The few that have girlfriends wave to them sitting on the sidelines. The ones that don't try to impress others by splashing around. The sun gets hotter. It smells of wet pavement and coconut oil. In the corner of the next pool, a group of older gentlemen in black Speedos are playing chess. Each move is carefully considered and a group has formed to watch the outcome...

Bathtub seating at a local Ruin PubWhat's the next move for Hungary? Innovation, enterprise and ingenuity have blossomed since the communist days and Hungarians seem to be master magicians at turning something out of nothing. One such example are the "Ruin Pubs." Young entrepreneurs took "ruined" buildings, many every bit as glorious as those in Paris, and transformed them into social pubs. Any scrap left behind, old chairs and even bathtubs, have been reused as seating or decor. David told me not long ago the government offered subsidies for people to renovate these buildings. But now those subsidies are gone. Pigeons occupy these spaces. Jobs are scarce and many are migrating to the Netherlands or the United Kingdom to find work. In addition to his job at a call center, his own online coupon business and renting apartments on AirBNB, David is starting a recruiting company to help people find jobs in these countries...

Finding footing in the wave pool is a challenge. If you try, you will most certainly lose it. A surge of water hits a teenager carrying his young brother on his shoulders. He slips and they splash into the pool, laughing "WHAAAAA!" like the high pitched shrill of a blackbird. Sometimes you can smell the ponies from the zoo next door. Two little girls wearing bright pink arm floaties tentatively enter the pool, accompanied by their dad. He holds one of their hands as he guides them into the pool. Their tentativeness is soon replaced by animated grins as they get swept into the motion of the waves. Spinning like tops, they giggle and wave. Mom in her floppy hat eating watermelon, and grandma with her over-sized sunglasses, watch from the sidelines. They cheer, take photos, film video. Proud. 

Budapest is still in the process of renaming their streets from their Communist Era names back to their pre-World War II titles. I was told on average, 30 street names are changed each month. Hungarians are a proud people. They treasure their culture, their Goulash soup, their Palinka. Palinka is a traditional fruit brandy, usually made from plum or peaches, invented in the Middle Ages. David told me that under a recent "Hungarian Palinka Law" only distilled beverages made using special methods and technology from fruits produced in Hungary and distilled locally can be called Palinka. They still make Palinka in Romania, he told me but, "it's not real Palinka." Rivalry with Romania still exists. Some are still sore about traditional Hungarian territory that was sliced off to Romania after World War I.  A small faction even disagreed with naming the city Budapest because it sounded too much like Bucharest.

"Egészségedre," or "to your health," David said before we downed our plum Palinka. It stung my lips, burned my throat and warmed my stomach. Egészségedre? I think my health may disagree...

After 20 minutes in the wave pool, my health feels better. I'm relaxed, at ease and filled with a sense of contentment I haven't felt in a long time. With each oscillation, I see the faces of the beautiful Hungarian people surrounding me. Not beautiful because of any particular physical merit, but beautiful because they are beaming, joyful, holding hands, united and enjoying the moment. For a minute I wonder what the world would be like if we were all placed in one giant wave pool with no choice but to either go with the flow or laugh at ourselves for fighting against it? Would our problems dissipate in the thermal waters? Just maybe the Hungarians were onto something when they claimed their waters a cure-all...

Thank you to my host David and tour guide Janos for letting me into their worlds and sharing what makes Budapest special.  

I wish I would have brought my camera to the baths, but was not certain it would be allowed. You can see more of my photos from Budapest by clicking here


What We Treasure in Iceland: Forces of Nature

I was ready to fire my GPS. The roundabouts were confusing it as much as they were confusing me. "Recalculating." The dreaded word. I felt I had "recalculated" enough these past few weeks: work, locations, recalculating my body to an eight-hour time difference. Was there anything left to recalculate?  

And yet, my trip to Krysuvik was taking a recalculated turn for the worse. Krysuvik, as I had been told, is a land of hot springs, volcanic ash and yes, hidden people that live in the rocks. I had been guided there by the gregarious clairvoyant Sigga, whose voice message greets you with the sound of the hidden people cheerfully chanting, "ha, ha ha, ho, ho, ho!" I imagined these people like the seven dwarfs, heading off to work they go...

Sigga channeling the power of the skyThe hidden people, or Huldufolk, as they are referred to, have origins traceable to Adam and Eve. According to Icelandic folklore, God made a visit to Adam and Eve. While Eve washed most her children, some remained unwashed and she hid these from God. When God asked about these children, she lied. As a result, God declared that what man hides from God, God will hide from man. And thus, the hidden children became the hidden people who make their homes in Iceland's rock formations and supposedly share their magic and messages if we listen.

As we talked over tea, Sigga picked up on my nervousness about my trip and suggested I go to the rocks and listen. "Go to the Mother Earth, lie on the stones, give her your problems," she advised, "Respect the Mother, love the Mother, and she will love you." 

Sigga should know, she's been in touch with Mother Earth all her life. She grew up on a farm in the countryside near Snaefell Glacier, without television. During the long winters, where four hours of daylight was not unusual, she found inspiration in the natural world around her. Cold January nights were spent huddled by the fire with family, telling fortunes, reading tea leaves and deciphering the messages of the native stones. She shares this knowledge with a deck of cards she created called, "Cards of Fortune, with Icelandic Stones." According to her cards, anyone can consult the stones for guidance and each stone has a special energy to support us. 

I flipped through the beautifully illustrated cards. Jaspis promotes forgiveness. Amethyst gives you peace of mind. Kalsit offers passion! Where do I find Kalsit? 

"How do you know what energies the stones possess?" I asked.

"Hold the stone in your hand and it will reveal it's energy," she said nonchalantly, as if this comes naturally for everyone, "it can be different for different people." 

I told her these stones are very expensive if you buy them in California. She shot me a look before asking, "You don't go into nature and choose them yourself?" Good question. I guess we don't do that anymore. We go into a shop and fork out $20 for a crystal. However, I had to chuckle at the thought of Sigga, in her neon pink dress and four-inch, studded Joseph Campbell platforms, roaming the glaciers of Snaefell, picking up rocks to 'stuff in her bosom' as she liked to say. 

Sigga wasn't the only one I met in Iceland whose work with nature was their life's work. My hostess, the effervescent Ms. Moon Healer, (her professional moniker), is an astrologist, healer, world traveler and moon ceremonialist. She has bright blue eyes, a kind face and an easy smile. It was impossible not to feel welcomed by her. 

One night, we took a midnight hike to the hidden hot springs above Hverageroi. It took effort to balance our feet along the rocky path, where shaggy sheep grazed feet away, wild foxes barked in the distance and the snow-kissed tip of trouble-making Eyjafjallajokull could be seen in the distance. "Watch out for the horse remains," she cautioned. "You know, some people don't like the smell of horses, " she continued with a smile, "but I love it. It reminds me I'm in nature." 

As we rounded a corner, the smell of sulpher became intense and the earth was steaming. We could hear the sound of the gurgling geysers, like the sound of hell speaking, which signaled (or warned?) we had arrived. It was there we slid ourselves into the bubbling water of the "hot pots", let the slippery moss caress our feet and watched the sunset against the purple mountains, as it turned from gold, to pink, and finally to a deep violet red. I had never seen such a glorious site. I wanted to learn more about what a "moon ceremony" entailed.

Moon ceremonies, as she explained, help people get in tune with the rhythm of the moon. She became interested in lunar cycles from reading about the moon's role in ancient cultures and religions. Following the moon cycle is, "like going with the flow," she said, "some people do this naturally, others need a little help."

She further explained that each of us can use the lunar cycles to our benefit. The New Moon is the best time to set goals; the Full Moon is the time to reap the benefits; the Waning Moon is the time to reflect and revise. Or as she put it, "The New Moon is the beautiful young woman. The Full Moon is the ripe woman. The Waning Moon is the woman who is old, but wise." Ah-ha, I think I got it.

On our drive home, I was curious about her background. It's not every day you meet someone who treasures the moon. She shared that she came from a typical, complicated Icelandic family:  something like 11 brothers and sisters, four different mothers and three different fathers. 

I asked her why this was "typical" for Iceland, to which she responded that Icelanders are like the weather: changeable, volatile and hard to tame. It's as if the wild and contrasting Icelandic landscape is tattooed on their souls. Much like the hidden people, there is a hidden dark side to 'Niceland'. "There are a lot of single mothers here," she added, "it's just the way it is. Expected." 

This respect for nature was also echoed on an organized tour of Iceland's geysers and waterfalls. The tour guide, a jolly man in his 50s, shared stories of the hidden people and how construction projects were often postponed or changed if they required stones to be moved, as to not disturb their dwellings. He mentioned, with a sigh of sadness, that a generation ago about 75% of Icelanders believed in the hidden people; today only about 25%.

"If you ask people why fewer people believe in the hidden people these days," he said, "most would say it's because more of us live in the city and we have become less connected to nature." To this, a few in the group of mostly American tourists, snickered under their breath. However, I think he was on to something. In our fast-paced lives, how in touch are we with ourselves, let alone our surroundings? Do we know if the moon is waxing or waning? Do we even realize it's there?

After the third "recalculation" at the same roundabout, I gave up my Krysuvik plans and settled for a quiet spot near a pond off a dirt gravel road. There, I surrendered myself to the stones, took a deep breath and stared at the sky. It was like staring into the eyes of a lover: deep, expressive and changeable. One minute moody, next minute exuberant, as clouds parted to reveal the mid-day sun. Perhaps it's like the emotional cycles in our lives, changing one minute from despair to joy to sadness. Recalculating. Maybe we are not so different from the natural world, perhaps we just forget to see we are a part of it. I laid there and let my worries seep into the stones. Just learn to love and relax more, the hidden people whispered their message...

Thank you to Halla and Sigga who so graciously invited me into their worlds and shared their knowledge of Iceland, what they treasured and life.