My favorite mountain town, words can count

Dear friends and family,

So far Zapatoca has been my favorite town, maybe the effort to get here has biased my opinion, but I have been enjoying just exploring all the nooks and crannies as I walk the streets. No trash anywhere, fresh mountain air and coolness. The best restaurants yet of the trip. Coffee shops to while away the afternoon while sipping on a mango shake, made with the fresh mangoes grown near here. 

There aren’t any tourists here. I mean almost none. Maybe the Colombians fill it on weekends. I could imagine that with all the hotels and restaurants here. For my visit just super friendly people all curious of where I’m from and how I got here. Even more so when I tell them of my bicicleta. 

Most of the buildings have a small door to the street that opens often to a beautiful inner courtyard for the hotel or restaurant or a smaller one for individual residences. Has me ( and Liz asked the same question) asking “ What does everybody do here?”. This was the most common question of tourists visiting Port Townsend.

One of the things I find myself doing, in my pursuit of learning the language, is to place my dinner order in the Spanish words I know. Then the waitperson will ask something I don’t understand about how it might be prepared, or what sauce, and I typically answer with a “si” nodding my head as if “ that sounds good” 

I just ordered a malteado ( malt) with fruit and ice cream. Then she asked three more questions I didn’t understand so I just said “todo” which means all. 

So far I haven’t had any really negative results. I even use it as an exercise to not be attached to outcomes, thinking like a good stoic ( or Buddhist). So, no salivating over the image of that dinner or treat ahead of time.

In another realm, this turned out differently.

After sailing for five years in my thirties I decided to restart my career as a CPA. Because I had been out of the field for almost thirteen years ( 8 years in the family business prior to sailing) , I thought it a good idea to work for a big firm in Seattle first to catch up on changes in the profession before hanging my own shingle in Port Townsend.

It was an odd interview because here I was, a scruffily bearded sailor, already a CPA, applying for what would be basically an entry level job. I showed my skills by proving that on my sail from Tahiti to Port Townsend I managed to secure a copy of the latest Master Tax Guide, which was the Bible of the present status of all the tax laws. I had lots of time at sea to read it cover to cover, basically memorizing it.

Even though I was in the room with the newly minted accountants, often the senior accountants would wonder by and ask me about present tax law as they were too busy working to have stayed as knowledgeable as I currently was. So, my reputation was high, and I think they were happy they hired me.

One day one of the senior accountants, let’s call her Diane,  who was actually younger than my 38 years, decided to have me start to use their latest gadget, an IBM 386 desktop computer. I’d never used one of these before since I was out sailing during their development years. She sat me down in front of it and turned it on and told me to familiarize myself with it until after her meeting when she could start teaching me.

So, she walked away and I hit the “on” button. A greenish print came on the screen and asked if I would like to reformat the disk drive. I thought “ Sure, probably means something like have everything in an order we can use” so I hit the “ yes” button. Not knowing computers, I was surprised when I was asked if I really did want to do that, so I replied in the affirmative again. There weren’t any more questions and even after repeatedly clicking other keys, I found nothing to study prior to Diane’s return.

When Diane returned, I told her that I couldn’t find anything to review, so she took my chair and tried to find information. She was surprised to find none. She asked what I did and I told her what the computer asked and my response. 

For some reason ( unbeknownst to me at the time) this had her freeze in place. I couldn’t tell if she was concerned, angry, or sad. No expression. Nothing. I thought maybe the wetness in her eyes had something to do with my efforts. 

You know what? In certain circumstances a simple “si” ( or its equivalent) could cause a problem bigger than getting nuts on your ice cream sundae.

Sending love,


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12 thoughts on “My favorite mountain town, words can count”

  1. Hi Charley,
    Your description and pictures of Zapatoca brought back memories of San Cristobal Las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico.

    I was 19 at the time on a summer-long volunteer construction project down there. It was my first time in a really foreign location, and the mountain remoteness and living and cultural differences of every kind were a revelation to me. It was a joyful time and really opened my eyes to the enormous richness of the human experience.

    Enjoy your travels!

  2. Just got back from a walk in the snow and cold. One thing you did right is avoid the winter. I’m already tired of it.
    Zapatoca looks like a beautiful little town. On our latest travels, I have been preferring the small towns to large cities. Have you been riding your bike around town or just walking?
    I due enjoy hearing some of your old life mixed in with the current.
    Enjoy. Love.

  3. …and by the way, yes, I did appreciate the computer story!
    It brought back many memories.. 🤔🙄🥴

  4. Hi Charley – thank you for taking us all along on your adventures and for pinging me about the story of your dubious entry into the world of technology. I remember you telling me that story, one to laugh and cry about!! In my very early days I reformatted the WRONG disk, without a backup. It was horrible. And worst of all, it was my father-in-law, Big Dave’s, computer. And he continued to love me. That experience stayed with me and I’ve never again reformatted a drive without double-triple checking to make sure I am absolutely CERTAIN which drive I am reformatting … and, backups. Love from the wintery northwest!! <3

  5. To pick up on your Stoic theme, I have picked up by now I suppose, hundreds, maybe thousands of pounds of street, field, forest and beach trash here and elsewhere. I do it without judgement (too much energy required). It’s the best way to replace disparaging thoughts of who might have dropped whatever it is.
    Though it’s clear they have greater problems than mine. Better to be part of the crew than a passenger.

    Those Zapatoca streets silently testify to a contented people, and tell more about them than any slogan-covered billboard or mission statement.

    Would that we could make PT like that!

  6. Hi Charley, thanks for sharing your thoughts and journey with us. Looks like you are above 5,000 ft and going higher. Enjoy!

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