On my way out to buy breakfast, I step into the street to avoid the motorcycle repair shop overflowing onto the sidewalk and hop over a dog sleeping on the warm pavement. I wait for the animated "walk" figure at a busy intersection, holding my breath to avoid breathing air thick with gasoline. As I cross on the green light, twenty motorcycles squeeze their way to the front of the stopped traffic. The riders all wear dust masks. I reach the vendors' stands and order my favorite dumplings, xiaolóngbāo, a cup of warm dòu jiāng, and a bag of ripe orange jüzi, all for about a dollar. The vendors are amazed at my ability to speak rudimentary Mandarin, and even practice a bit of English: "Thank you!" On the way back, I pass three 7-Elevens in one block. Around the corner, in a quiet alley, the air is breathable. Tropical plants bulge from balconies above me, hiding rusting window bars. A large garage ahead has been converted into a temple; the walls are painted red and incense burns on a table covered with black wooden figurines. Two stray kittens look up at me from beneath the table. I open a gate across the street and retreat back into grandmother's house.