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Goeun Park: Homeless or not, San Diego’s Balboa Park is perfect place to live

If I ever took over the world, I’d make access to parks, libraries and museums a basic human right.

I’d get to eliminating world hunger and establishing world peace right afterwards, of course. But first, I’d make sure that every ritzy city and rundown town invests in public spaces.

If I were a dictator, I wouldn’t need to justify my reasoning. Alas, I lack authoritarian virtues so let me digress and elaborate. Last Saturday, I rode a bus down to San Diego to visit none other than the world famous San Diego Zoo.

Since it’s common knowledge that it’s no fun to do the zoo by oneself, I tagged along with a girl I sat next to on the bus. Together, Viva and I explored the Lost Forest and the Elephant Odyssey under the scorching San Diego sun. The zoo was delightful, as expected.

There are only few things I enjoy more than squawking birds and screaming children in the morning, especially if I’m one of the screaming children. I had the time of my life before I got tired.

It’s probably blasphemy to admit this in public but after several hours, the monkeys started to lose their appeal. After gawking at elephants and lions, the birds look the same. Viva and I aimlessly roamed around for a while before deciding to do the unthinkable. We decided to leave.

Our first idea was to take a taxi to the ocean. Two girls in an unfamiliar city — what could possibly go wrong? Unluckily (or luckily) for us, just as we were about to execute the plan into action, a cab driver quoted us a rate and the idea shriveled up in the heat and died.

Bummed, we explored outside the zoo until we spotted a grand whitewashed building on a hill. As we got closer, the purpose of the building became clearer: San Diego Museum of Natural History.

The museum was approximately five minutes away from the zoo on foot. We quickly realized that a lot of things were really close to the zoo, thanks to the amazing wonder that was Balboa Park.

Balboa Park is a National Historic Landmark District in the heart of San Diego. It is home to more than a dozen museums and gardens as well as the San Diego Zoo. It also contains all my architectural fantasies; the fountains, arches and columns are genius works of art. If I ever had to be homeless, I’d be homeless at Balboa Park.

For one, San Diego weather is stunning all year around. While most botanical gardens are made of glass to keep the heat in and cold out, the one in Balboa Park has a wooden lattice structure that allows warm air to travel freely. Even if I wasn’t homeless, I’d live there if I could. 

As much as I enjoyed the zoo, people watching at the park was positively enchanting. It was like reliving the childhood I had and the childhood I wanted.

At one point, we walked past a girl wearing the most lavish ball gown I’ve ever seen. Decked out in satin blue, she floated past us with her head held high. Viva assumed the girl was celebrating her quinceañera. I tried to remember how I entered young womanhood. Gracelessly, I’m sure, with lots of crying over boys and pimples.

From a shady bench, Viva and I split a pumpkin cookie and watched the people come and go. A bride and a groom here, an elderly woman there. A little girl in pigtails, posing by a koi pond. A little more than decade ago, I was that girl. Now I’m a year short of 20.

The places I keep dear to me are places that make me feel like I’m a part of something. Through museums, I connect to past circumstances; through libraries, I connect to future ideas; and through parks, I connect to present people. Not always physically and not always for long but it’s enough to remind myself that I’m not alone.

Last Saturday, Balboa Park was where I felt like I belonged. I think places like that are worth fostering.

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends college in California.