Jaen 11-14 May:
The Hotel El Bosque feels like an oasis. It might disappoint someone looking for a luxury hotel in a popular resort town; but when you’re coming from the hotels in Huancabamba and the dirt road down from there, El Bosque is a delightful place to rest. The moto-taxi and other traffic sounds seem not to penetrate into the garden and pool area, Simple pleasures like a pool-side drink, an afternoon swim, and the like seem miraculous.
As to Jaen itself, there’s no readily apparent reason to say here except for business, of which we have none, or laziness, of which we are suddenly guilty.
Still, even here the most mundane activity can be a mystery.
The car looks like a car that has driven a great many kilometers on dirt roads, often with the windows open. Even I have contemplated getting it washed. Ragna insists.
In the late afternoon I search for the place that washes cars. After several misdirected efforts, I spot a place that seems to change oil and wash cars, though no sign says so.
A pleasant young fellow comes out grinning. When I ask him about getting the car washed, he points and says “Es occupado.” His face shows that he thinks this so obvious I should have seen it. It will be an hour before they can wash my car. He also tells me there’s another place a half-block away, but when I pass it there’s little activity.
I park the car out front of the hotel, and spend an hour or so inside. Ragna is reading by the pool, so I join her, studying Spanish a little. A bearded hotel worker brings us cokes.
I emerge again, past the same bearded hotel worker. He’s spraying down the walk and the parking area with a hose.
I return to the car-wash place.
The same fellow emerges, grinning.
When I say I would like the car washed, interior and exterior, he says something about the exterior, pointing to it. I think he must be telling me that they can’t do that right now for some reason – until I notice that the car, which had been beige with road-dirt, is now a gleaming black again. Ah, the bearded fellow with the hose.
The car wash fellow must be sure now that I’m crazy; but I ask him to clean the car’s interior. He starts on that. I pick up some trash, including a small bag of apples we bought in a dusty little village the day before but dared not eat without first peeling them. “Basura?” he inquires, in case I’ve made a mistake about the apples. I tell him to take them, and he happily does.
As he moves the stuff I haven’t taken out of the car, he finds the Che cap Orlando gave me nearly a week ago. He gives me a thumbs-up sign. I nod and smile.
While he cleans the car, I watch a fair sunset and a lot of passing moto-taxis, and write two bad tanka.
When he finishes, I thank him and ask him how much, and pay him. Ten soles – which strikes me as probably more than the going rate. He mimes the cap and smiles again, and gives thumb’s up. I should give him the cap, which he covets. I do not, somehow, perhaps because it was a gift to me, but I do recount, in broken Spanish, how I obtained it a couple of weeks ago. “Un regalo,” he says. He likes the story. He also opens one of the doors and holds up a bottle of red wine, possibly in the hope that I’ve forgotten it and might let it join the apples. “Chile,” he says, indicating that it is good. I nod, and I tell him that my wife very much likes red wine.
I leave, thinking that if I were the man I would like to be and sometimes purport to be, I’d have given him the “Che” cap immediately.
Back in the hotel, the bearded employee is sweeping the lobby. I ask whether it was he who washed the car. He smiles and nods. I give him a couple of soles. He approves. I start to leave him, then, in more inelegant Castellano, tell him that I had previously sought to get it washed, then returned to the carwash place without noticing he’d cleaned the car, and that to the carwash man it must appear that I am loco.