Visiting Parque Buenes Aires
Monday morning. Bright light fills my bedroom. My sheets loosely cover me. Outside my window the sound of children laughter fills the air. The next door neighbors are hosting a pool party this morning. Judging by the sounds of things there are at least 10-12 munchkins all running, jumping and swimming in the cool water to escape the hot sun. Rolling over in bed, I reach out to grab my phone off the nightstand. 11:43am. Damnit.
If there is one habit I have I am not fond of here in Brazil it is my habit of sleeping in. While I am certainly not a morning person, I don’t usually like sleeping in past nine. I feel I waste too much of the day when I get up any later.
However, I have now been here almost 2 months and maybe three times have I been out of bed before 11. Try as I might to break the habit and shift my sleeping cycles I just can’t seem to do it. At first it was easy to blame jet lag. Now my only excuse is “Brazil”. Just when I think I am starting to get things moving in the right direction, I’ll spend 4 days in a row staying up until 4am and fall right back into my old schedule.
Today, my sleeping habits knock me off my original plan. In an attempt to spend more time exploring the city and culture of São Paulo, and not most of my days working on photos, I decided to make this week “Museum Week” – a week were I will visit one or two museums each day and spend more time getting lost in my new city. I am not off to a good start. Most museums are not open or close early on Mondays and my only real hope of getting good museum time in today was to start early. What time is it again? 12:13. Shit.
Rise and shine
I hear Rosie doing laundry outside my door. If I am going to make anything of the day I better get to it. I shuffle my way to the shower with Rosie teasing me in Portuguese about how late I sleep. Oh Rosie, you peach. Don’t ever change. Norton and Olivia are home when I get out of the shower and I sit down with them for lunch. Or as I like to call it, breakfast.
As I sit munching on lettuce with olive oil, rice, kidney beans, pork sausages and creamed corn I make a game plan to salvage my day. Parque Buenes Aires is on my list of places to explore and while it might not be a museum, I will start my week there. It looks like a 20-30 minute walk from our place so I will pack up some food, my journal and my camera and go get lost this afternoon.
“What in the world is this hill!?”
I am twenty minutes into my walk and after crossing a busy street, stand at the base of quite possibly the steepest hill in all of South America. My neighborhood of Perdizes is hilly, but there is nothing like this - this is almost a 40% slope. Never in my life did I imagine São Paulo to be this hilly. Parque Buenes Aires lies just beyond the crest of the monster though, so with one deep breath I dig deep and begin my climb. Horizontal is not a position I associate with walking, but after reaching the top, I begin to reassess my knowledge of all things walking related.
I stand at the corner of a quiet intersection at the top of the hill and take in two mouthfuls of cool water. I wipe the sweat from my brow. It is close to 30°C (86°F) plus a humidity that hangs like a thick soup. And I just walked sideways. Today’s adventure is already a good one.
Two blocks up I see the entrance to the park. Before I even get there I am already in love with this place. The park stretches three blocks by two blocks, nestling itself quietly in the neighborhood of Higienópolis. Tall buildings over look the park. Small shops line the sidewalks across the street. Tall trees reach protective branches over people bustling below. I can hear kids playing in the park. It took walking up the steepest hill in all of South America, but here I stand at an oasis – a treasure of calm and green.
My new favorite place
I approach the entrance to the park. It is an unassuming gate, cracked open, offering refuge to any passersby on the street. I pull my ear buds out as I cross the threshold, wanting to experience this place with all my senses. I walk along the curved paved pathway into the heart of the park. At first glance, there is nothing overly special about Parque Buenes Aires. It has winding paths, tall leafy trees, benches, stretches of grass, an area for dogs to play and two small playgrounds. As I walk though, I realize there is something about this place though. I can feel it.
Now in the park I can see the park is not flat. The south end, populated with grassy areas, a playground and two fenced in areas to let dogs run free, is a good 15-20 feet lower than the north end. From the south, winding paths dotted with benches curl their way through overhanging trees. Up gentle slopes they run, past flowers and a small central playground to the north end of the park. Here a large marble, abstract statue of a mother holding a child stands in a large circular opening. Trees and benches line the outer edge of the opening.
After walking through the entire park, these benches are where I choose to sit. The trees forming the opening insulate me from noises of the playground and city. I sit in the quiet. There are few people in this area of the park, and those that do show up usually pass through. It is calm and still. After 30 minutes of relaxing breathing, a group of eight women show up to do a routine of stretches in front of the statue. They exercise, with little talking, for close to 45 minutes and become the backdrop for my journal writing.
It has been a bit of a tough week. There are times when my status as an outsider feels more prominent. I am still questioning what it is I am doing on this new adventure into Brazil and being a photographer. I have been processing a lot this past week or two. The early stages of a transformative process are never easy. I have to remember that. This park is amazing though. So calming. Sometimes this city can feel inescapable.
I sit at my bench for almost 3 hours, writing, sketching and breathing in the trees. This is my new favorite spot in the entire city. I have a feeling I’ll be visiting a lot. Darkness begins to set in as the sun slinks behind the buildings. What a great start to “Museum Week.” I gather up my stuff and head down the winding paths toward the street. At least I’ll be going down the hill this time.