Event

Explosive atmosphere

Bombs going off every minute, grenades flying just past my ears, but I am still driving through the bullet rain, fully determined to bring the bouncy castle to the next group of poor children. That is how I want to be remembered!

Van, Turkey

Road to Van

Well, in Eastern Turkey the situation is fortunately not THAT bad. Yet we heard one bomb going off while we were just preparing the castle. Three people were shot just some hundred meters away from our house. And one castle was seriously delayed as a bomb had destroyed the road completly just the night before. On the other hand, Eastern Turkey has one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen, and the traditional breakfast is just unbelievably good.

Finding new places for the bouncy castle, Van, Turkey

Finding a place for the castle

Before I had come to Van, a nice little town near a very big lake, I had asked my friend to have their eyes open for one bouncy event or two, and yes, they indeed DID. Each and everyone of her friends presented me an idea to set up the castle, so my days were quite busy! Next to the lengthy breakfasts and enjoying the amazing landscape, we set up the castle SIX times in just ten days. But see for yourselves:

First day, we brought the castle to a nearby village in the mountains. We could just stay the morning, as the kids had to work in the afternoon :(

Afterwards we had to enjoy the landscape of course:

Do you remember the fight against IS for the North-Syrian city Kobani? There are still many people who could not return yet, some of who stay in a little refugee camp in Van. After the obligatory breakfast, we went there for two hours, packed it back into the car and visited a pre school in another neighbourhood. First double action!

After which we enjoyed the landscape and ourselves.

The next event was a breakfast. Followed by several other breakfasts, and finally again a bouncy castle! This time next to my friend’s pharmacy. And as a thank you, I finally got my long-needed insulin!

Bomb crater, Van, Turkey

Bomb crater near Van, Turkey

Having gained THREE kilos in just one week, it was time to move on. After breakfast at the lake side, we drove around a bomb crater from an attack the night before, and arrived in Diyarbakir. My friend’s family had prepared a gigantic dinner already. A lot of calories which we could use very good the next day! Bouncy life as usual.

Selam still happy with the footballs. We should not have them very long

Selam with the footballs. We should not have them very long though

Next day, we went into a Yazidi refugee camp. All the people had fled from the IS in the last years, and especially the children welcomed us overwhelmingly. My friends had bought around thirty footballs to give to the kids, and we had thought about making a queue to distribute them. Well, that was a bit naive, after the balls were discovered, it took around 10 seconds for the kids to pull them out of the car, open the nets and grabbing as many as they could. We three big men had no chance against this mob. But at least the balls had arrived in the camp :)

Actual footage from the Yazidi camp

Actual footage from the bouncy castle at the Yazidi camp

There do not exist many pictures from the children the bouncy castle, as we were just too busy to control the children crowd. I guess when ou have fled from the IS, it is not very important to you anymore if someone shouts “Please, there should be no more than 15 children on the castle”. After one hour, our adult helpers from the camp went away suddenly, and only three people left, we had to close the castle, as we had no chance to provide a safe jumping for the kids. Very sad that not everyone could jump, but at least 100 children enjoyed quite a lot. Anyway, this is haunting me, so I guess I have to come back in the future.

Diyarbakir, Turkey

After-bounce food tastes best

So we just packed together, had some dinner until we nearly exploded, and planned the next day in a nearby village school. It was the last day of school, so good students were rewarded with a day on the bouncy castle. While the bad students were punished with a day on the bouncy castle.

In the end, it was six bouncy castles in just ten days, the most active, exhausting, rewarding and fulfilling time of my travels yet! With fulfilling, I refer to my stomach mostly though.

But now, after one year on the road with my castle, it is time to go home. Enjoy the view of my sleeping place tonight:

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Orphans and child labour in Lahore, Pakistan

India had given me a nice souvenir – they had installed a hidden speed bump on the highway, which I had hit with 80km/h. As a result, my car produced some nasty sounds on bumpy roads, and when I hit the brakes, the steering wheel would turn left. I did not take a liking to this new behaviour, so after crossing the border to Pakistan, I gave my car to a repair shop.

While they were on it, I took the chance to visit the Karakorum region in the Northern areas. I am not a fan of exaggerations and I will never ever be, but the Hunza valley is the absolutely most wonderfullest place at all! Just look at these greatest pictures of all times:

In Hunza, I had met Victor from France, who had been a volunteer in a school for orphans in Lahore – so the next bouncy plan magically evolved. The miracle school (yes, again!) started as education program for children working in the brick kiln.

These brick factories/ brick kiln in the outskirts of Lahore have a very cruel system running: The workers earn around 300 rupees (3$) for every 1000 bricks they produce – a work which one family with their children can just manage in one day. And the 300 rupees get spent on food right away – so if they do not fulfil their quota, they will have to go to bed hungry. In the monsoon season, it is not possible to make bricks, so the factory owners provide them a credit – which makes the workers basically slaves. Most of them are illiterate and do not even know how much money they owe their bosses. They only know they will spend their lifetime in the brick factory.

The miracle school now provides free education for the children, and has therefore set up a school in the brick factories neighbourhood. A proper education is the only way out of this horrible circle of poverty! On top, they have a second school in Lahore for orphans and poor children in the neighbourhood – and that’s how the first triple bouncy action took place!

The first day, we took the castle to the school near the brick factories. After the children had sung me a welcome song, we set up the castle with the help of the generator. We just were there for a few hours, then it started to rain (yes, even in Pakistan that happens). But of course, all the classes took their turn in jumping. A nice day for me and the 200 kids from the school!

On the next day, we set up the castle in the Lahori neighbourhood for the orphans. We decided to do it in the late afternoon, as Lahore is unbearably hot during daytime (>40°). Again, the organization was perfect, I basically just sat around and took photos. And William helped me to repair the fan, which had taken some minor damage in the bouncy heat.

On the third day in a row, we went directly into one of the brick factories. Like this we could provide the castle for those children, who had to produce bricks and could therefore not leave the factory. They were so happy on the castle, and it broke my heart to imagine them producing bricks afterwards. Nevertheless, I think this day was one of the most important bouncy days.

A touch of bollywood in Rishikesh

A touch of Bollywood in the Mother Miracle school in Rishikesh, India

A touch of Bollywood in the Mother Miracle school

The caste system is unfortunately still very common in India, so children who have been born as “untouchables” have no real chance to get a proper education – except in Rishikesh: the Mother Miracle school in Rishikesh teaches especially the smartest children from poor backgrounds, as they can benefit the most from a proper education and can hopefully support their entire family in the future – the only chance to escape the cycle of poverty. No wonder, that there were 3000 applications for the 127 places in the new school year.

Opening ceremony in Mother Miracle school in Rishikesh, India

Opening ceremony with the 127 new students, some are outside of their village for the very first time

By perfect coincidence, the new school year started on April, 1st, and also the new school building would be opened on the very same day with a big fest. A fest, which would be spiced up with the bouncy castle! The school’s founder Shahla kept the castle as a surprise though, and just told the children to eat a lot in the weeks before, so they be energetic enough for the big surprise.

Opening ceremony in Mother Miracle school in Rishikesh, India

Remember – do not eat the offerings

The day of the opening started with a ceremony and some speeches. Afterwards some of the older students gave a got a handful of spices to everyone. Hungry as I was,  I was tempted to eat them, but fortunately realized I had to throw them into the fire as an offering for good luck – first mistake avoided!

Afterwards, the big moment had come for the kids. The ~350 kids gathered around the courtyard, we put the castle into the middle, plugged in the fans and the castle started to rise – until 20 seconds later the electricity was gone. It was not very pleasant to see the children’s eyes changing from unbelieving excitement to disappointment. Fortunately, we found another power point, and this time the castle expanded to full size!

Bouncy castle in the Mother Miracle school in Rishikesh, IndiaBouncy castle in the Mother Miracle school in Rishikesh, India

The little new students were the first to jump, probably thinking school would be like this everyday. I hope they will be not too disappointed. Then the older children joined them, and they were joined by all the school’s staff and me. We all spent a great day of jumping, and watched the students’ dance performances in the breaks (see above).

Carrying the castle back to the car was the last effort in the evening. Even though we all sweated litres of liquids, and my back hurt quite good at night, it was a very pleasant day and definitely a very good ending  for the Indian adventure. Not an ending for my trip though, as the next stop is called: Pakistan!

Holi Hupfburg

I had met a German woman on my travels, who knows a German woman, who knows another German woman, who has volunteered in a Slum NGO in India, whose director knows the director of a children’s hospital. And indeed I found myself on the way to that children hospital in Baroda, Gujarat, having organised a bouncy castle day on Good Friday. I was driving towards Baroda right on the day of the Holi festival. On this particular day, people throw colors at each other, everybody gets really colourful and freaks out a bit. What a wonderful opportunity to escape my gray day-to-day life ;)

The problem was, I had had some problems with my car engine in the morning, so I feared the engine would not start again if I switched it off. Sadly, I passed all the colourful people dancing to blasting music, knowing that I could not stop to take part. The bouncy castle was more important though! I arrived at the hospital, parked my car and indeed, the engine would not start again. My sacrifice had been for a reason! And at least the bouncy castle had arrived at its destination.

Fixing my battery

Fixing my battery

The hospital staff offered me a free room to stay, and I have never slept so good in a hospital, nor ate better cantine food. Just delicious!
In the morning, we pushed the car for 100 meters to the designated bouncy area and set up the castle. The kids from the physio-therapy lesson gathered on the castle, and were soon joined by the kids from the hospital’s special school for children with all kinds of disabilities.
As everything was quite relaxed, I took the time and started to look into my car battery problem. The hospital’s driver showed up and fixed everything in an eye-blink. Yeah!

After lunch break, the children from a nearby slum had arrived and were quite happy when I plugged the cable in and the bouncy castle began to rise again. And on top, the nurses had heard about my misfortunate Holi, and had brought some leftover colors. So I got colorful a bit as well finally!

The rest of the day was very relaxed, some hospitalized kids showed up, I gave a little interview to a newspaper journalist. I enjoyed once more the delicious cantine food and left Baroda for the next bouncy destination: Rishikesh!

In the foothills of the Himalaya

After years of thinking and planning and doing and talking and re-planning and re-thinking and recreation, I have finally arrived. I have crossed the border and have arrived at my final destination: India!

This blog has apparently reached a lot of readers already, so when I crossed the border from Pakistan, a huge crowd had gathered to welcome me and the bouncy castle (see the video on the right). After this warm welcome, I arrived in Amritsar, the holy city of the Sikhs, and the hospitality continued. Sikhs believe in welcoming people from all faiths, so all visitors can stay & eat for free in their temples. Which I did.

Thanks to the interview I gave to Bayern 2 I had contact to the Hope project, a Rosenheim (Germany)/ Dehra Dun (India) based NGO which helps street children in Dehra Dun. I arrived in their “Hope Home” outside of the city, where around 45 children live and where the bounce should take place.

The first day was characterized by heavy rainfalls, so I had the chance to visit their school in a slum in Dehra Dun, because we wanted to provide the castle for these kids as well. Unfortunately, the slum street planners had not thought of a big square in the area, and had made all the streets really tiny and narrow, so that we could not find any place (and I ripped down various snack bags from one mini market with my umbrella). Anyway, we decided to set up the castle in the Hope Home and transfer the slum children to the place with a bus. Easy!

Power blackout during the group picture in the Hope project, Dehra Dun, India

Power went off quite frequently

Next day, the weather was more appropriate for a sub-tropical country and we put the castle into the middle of the Hope Home. The orphans from the Hope Home (red clothes) were joined by the children living in the slum (blue school uniform) and even some disabled children from the nearby village. Just the power went off quite frequently, but that created a certain suspense, as the children never knew how long they could enjoy their time on the castle. They jumped every second as if it was their last!

The next day, I was invited to a Ukrainian project in Dehra Dun, which operates four orphanages and a little school for the children, all of them in the city this time. The school yard was too small of course (urban planners: please consider bouncy castle in your future plannings!), but we could use a nearby cricket ground (cricket ground planners: well done!). Friendly neighbours borrowed us electricity, and the orphans jumped together with the interested children living close by.

So, the castle has reached India and the first events were a lot of fun. Mission fulfilled?

Hmmm…

NO, I want MORE!