Arrive out of the subway station onto the street. Nothing special; quaint store fronts, cute boutiques. Searching…there, a few blocks away: 210 TaiKang Lu. An alley past an archway, I have to stop a short distance into the interior. The weight of my dropped jaw slows me down. A moment to breathe and take in my new found sanctuary-love at first sight, heart-wrenching motif of life. Shoulders bump mine-breathe in and out, start counting-even after I swerve to evade them. Crowds make me cringe but for this place I can push back my aberration for the touch and close quarters of other human beings.
Flowing people sweep me down to the left, to new sights and sounds, awe-causing stimuli. Enter a shop filled with key chains, chairman Mao shirts, camera lenses, and pocket watches (the same ones found two allies over for a cheaper price). Exit the other side into a new world all over again. Later, we see a sign: Unicorn Enigma Shop. It is accompanied by the depiction of a skeletal unicorn. The display window contains pinned, mounted, and boxed insect carcasses for sale, aside replicas of icons from the ancient world. Pulling the locked door douses the flame that is my enthusiasm for discovering new and different things. Then I remember I have four months to make my way to this intriguing shop during business hours. Each shop is fairly small, a trait that I find endearing. Even the most unappealing shop becomes of interest. For instance I do not wear or enjoy hats in the least, but I adore several of the hat shops placed around the market.
Stares when I wake up, stares when I eat, stares when I walk around the city streets-"Ni Hao!" If you are going to look me in the eyes have the nerve to say something; I am no animal to be gawked at by tourists and locals. My feet, sore and blistered, protest every step I take towards the metro. We make it to the nine line, connect to the eight line, and finally shuffle aboard the ten. Speeding down the rails, getting farther away from TaiKang Lu, my passion dwindles-the spark of inspiration sputters out and I feel bereft for the loss of the passion only coursing through me moments before. Suddenly I have aches and pains in my shins, knees, and ankles that seemed insignificant miles back comes racing through my nervous system: Time to hail a taxi and return to the place that is home for the coming months.