His Spanish is pretty good except for those pesky irregular verbs. He’s clever enough to mumble them hoping the tense remains clear through context. He carries a well-thumbed mini-English/Espanol dictionary, so we know he’s sincere about broadening his vocabulary.
He is humble (for a North American) and occasionally self-deprecating, often funny and sometimes loud, especially when laughing at his own jokes.
When a two stroke motorcycle passes on the street the exhaust odor triggers memories of his mis-spent high school autumns in the midwest … his girl on the back … whizzing down a leaf strewn country lane singing their hearts out: “All you need is love ….. ra ta da de dah.”
There are at least fifty reasons why he loves Ecuador, his adopted country … and 12 reasons more why it annoys him.
He tells his paranoid relations back home that the most dangerous things in his adopted city are baseball sized irregular rocks that sit just off the curb waiting for you to step on them, sending you straight to the emergency room for x-rays and into a lower leg cast. He daily kicks dozens of them out of the way only to find them back again the next morning. This gives rise to conspiracy theories which he shares with the tin foil hat contingent, commenting: “Well, name one person that’s gone to the hospital with a broken ankle caused by a chem-trail?
He can be found at cafes enjoying every gringo’s favorite legal drugs: caffeine and sugar (the higher the glycemic index the better). While waving a fork loaded with moist carrot cake in your direction, he will commiserate on the current state of the world, tell you why neutrinos are our friends, and maybe even gossip a wee bit.
He pines for his own work shed where he can build things like go-karts and pipe bombs, get dizzy from adhesives, have the guys over for a beer, talk about compression ratios and nookie. … just like in the old days.
When pretty young women pass on the street he sighs and wonders where the time went. “We weren’t suppose to grow old.”
He’s our Gringo of the Year for 2021. He’s our kinda guy.
— Photo; Thomas H. Ives
— Photo-illustration: Glen Birbick
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.