Expat Sat: Nooks & Crannies

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writing. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.

Sion Dayson–keeper of the expat blog “paris (im)perfect”–wrote a great post a few weeks back about a hidden nook in Paris (Belleville’s Portes Ouvertes) that got me reminiscing about all the hidden nooks and crannies I explored and loved in China during my years there.

Geesh, I love a good nook or cranny. Way more than I care about the big, go-to sites in any given place. Give me a quiet corner in an out-of-the-way temple in Chengdu over the hustle and bustle of Shanghai’s People’s Square any time.

Here’s one of my favorites. When I first landed in China in 2006, I happened upon this old shoemaker in his tiny stall down one of Shanghai’s famous lanes. I was smitten…by the towering piles of leather and lasts, by the shoemaker’s friendliness, by the familiar smell of polish, by how different…and yet the same…this stall was to the shoe-making shops I knew back home.  Of course, I was also so new to China, I had no idea where I was in the city. Couldn’t find this guy again if you paid me (well, maybe if you paid me). But no matter. It was the initial discovery and engagement that hooked me. And besides, there’s always another inviting nook or cranny just around the corner.


Q4U: How about you? What’s one of your favorite nooks or crannies in your host country?



4 Responses to Expat Sat: Nooks & Crannies

  1. When I lived in Cebu, Philippines, my favorite nook was a place we called Brown Gate- we got there by sneaking through a hole in the brown fence around our school. I’d go there for lunch with my friends and eat food prepared by the always friendly lady who lived there and cooked from her kitchen. We’d have the most delicious pancit, pork tocino and lumpia with a large pile of rice. I still miss the food and comaraderie of that place.

  2. In Hong Kong, just off the Northern end of Nathan road, there’s a park where everyone who sells birds brings their cages and sets them out. Although I feel sorry for the birds, whose cages always seem a bit too small for them, I love the rare opportunity to get up really close and see what amazing creatures they are. And the park is an incredible pocket of tranquility just steps away from one of the most densely populated parts of the planet. It always feels like magic to me, stepping through the gate into the hush of the green bamboo groves.