As a Third Culture Kid, I live to explore my surroundings. Specifically, I love to explore cities. There is nothing more exciting than turning a corner and finding something unexpected.
Cities are big, showy creatures. But it’s the stuff that they’re not showing off that I find interesting.
City secrets. This is “my five.”
1. June 2007: Singapore, Singapore. I grew up in Singapore, but Club Street didn’t come around until after I left. Upon return visits, I came to love it because of the winding road, the rehabbed colonial shopfronts, the cute boutique stores and quirky bars. But on a walk there, I didn’t expect to find this cluttered junk shop, bursting at the seams with “uniquely Singapore” finds. Everything was covered with a thin film of dirt, and nothing was orderly — something that doesn’t exist in Singapore anymore. It reminded me of the stores my mom used to take me to in Hong Kong or in Singapore, back before everyone modernized.
2. Fall 2005: Chicago, Illinois. Chicago is best explored by foot, and on public transportation. One of my favorite neighborhoods to walk around is Hyde Park, the home of University of Chicago and Barack Obama. But right next to Hyde Park, in a neighborhood that most U of C students don’t venture into, is Woodlawn. An area of Chicago that used to be bustling with culture and commerce but has slid into decline. I was fortunate enough to see some of the beautiful, grand interiors of the boarded up buildings in Woodlawn, which is startling in itself. But as someone who grew up in a world without any street art, seeing some of the creative sidewalk graffiti of these neighborhoods was inspiring enough.
3. March 2008: Osaka, Japan. I used to be scared of eating clams. That was until my sister and I walked into the clam man’s restaurant, a tiny box right off the insane Shinsaibashi district of Osaka. The restaurant, which could not have been bigger than 12 ft. by 5 ft., was made up of a countertop and 6 chairs. Had the best seafood of my life, made by a generous chef who was born and raised on that very street. I was skeptical of the food I was going to served. I now love, love, love clams.
4. September 2006: Glasgow, Scotland. When my University of Edinburgh friends and I decided to explore Glasgow for a day, we made up a scavenger hunt to keep us moving. A picture with a random Glaswegian. A photo with the police. A photo of a hummer vehicle. A nude female statue. We got all of them, including a photo with a BBC camera crew. Then we turned a corner and stumbled into a massive flea market. I am certain that it is by no means a secret. But you never see stuff like this in clean Singapore — and I loved it.
5. May 2009: St. Louis, Missouri. This is the top floor of one of the former St. Louis City Hospital Buildings, which was abandoned in 1985. We snuck inside two of the buildings, and climbed to the top floor of one of them. There was something so beautiful about something so abandoned, that I just could not stop taking photographs. With such a great history, and such a cinematic demise, this was a real city secret that emboldened my love for exploration.
What are your “five?” Email your submission into firstname.lastname@example.org.