Cuenca kids at dusk

Jan 13, 2022

There I was up in Cuenca on official business with the Ministerio de Franz Kafka. It hadn’t been pretty …. I had to return to GO and not collect $200.

Later, near sundown, I was in a sullen mood walking the streets: looking for cans to kick or those silly baseball sized rocks that are everywhere.

Then I turn a corner and see this mob: beaming and exhaling pillow cases full of joy. The guy doling out rides on his bike, the furry mascot on the handle bars. They were besides themselves with that enchanting energy that seems to define pre-pubescence.

My first reaction was “How dare they ruin my well deserved (self-righteous) fuming.”

That lasted for a heart beat as the older girl spotted me with my camera and shouted out to two friends down the street to get over here for a photo-op. They arrived, they played to the camera with abandon, the images were cute, but a bit self-conscious. I knew the image of the girl calling out was the keeper.

I showed them the pictures, they giggled and wanted to see them again. They never asked me to send them one … too young for a Facebook account, no computer? They were gone in a flash, disappearing to play out the last moments of the setting sun.

Leaving the old gringo, alone, but warmed and feeling better about a slightly twisted day.

It also left me musing about how can we hang on to all of this spontaneity, camaraderie and the intense emotions of life overflowing that the young display?

Puzzlingly, there seems to be a time that adults stop running around and goofing off like kids and dogs. What’s that about? Did some grumpy maturity agent show up around 24 years of age and say: “OK, that’s it!” “You’ve had enough fun, time to act your age!”

American-born photographer Thomas Ives has worked for international news and feature magazines for over 38 years. His photo essays and images have appeared in National Geographic, Time, Geo, Stern, Newsweek, Life, Smithsonian, and many others publications. He lives in Vilcabamba with his Ecuadorian partner. For more about Thomas, click here.

Thomas Ives may be contacted at and more of his work may be seen on his Instagram account: thomas_h_ives 

Thomas Ives

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