Many times, when people have asked me what they should do in the city of Oaxaca, I have said; go down to the park. Which, park? It doesn´t matter. You will find what you are looking for, whether it is colour, company, energy, or a place to unwind.
The wind catchers, twirling red, blue and white, seem to show up for sale just as the sun’s rays are at their richest and shallowest and dusk makes the hills glow. A mass of shiny balloons passes by like a cloud, possibly with a person selling them, completely lost to view underneath.
A very pregnant woman is doing laps of a small park called Conzatti. She has her hands firmly bracing her lower back, and is blowing bright pink bubble-gum bubbles that I can hear pop from metres away. At the other end of the space, fathers playing with their little kids make me smile. You can never quite tell who is having the more fun, as paper planes fly in and around branches and plastic action figures tumble in and out of fountains.
I love these shared spaces. If I am feeling lonely, I can find the comforting and inclusive rhythm of society there. Coming from a world where people spend most of their recreational time in private backyards, the intimacy and vibrancy of this public life is a delight to me.
Bible study groups and Zumba dance aerobics classes, use the same space respectively. The white coated medical students, seeking a little fresh air, fall down in heaps under the trees to rest. I always peek at the pages of the drawing classes from the local high school as I walk by, but my favourite demographic is made up of the old men who do Tai Chi in the morning. I feel relaxed just watching them, and more than once I´ve considered ditching the office to join in.
And it is not just human life you will encounter. Many birds and bees call the parks their home. I remember, back in my very first weeks in Oaxaca, saying to Samantha, LOOK, LOOK, and running over to see a furry brown thing scurrying all about a tree. She raised her eyebrows good naturedly. “Don´t tell me you´ve never seen a squirrel before?”