Wanna see my bouncy castle?

^^ This pickup phrase is almost as cool as my own (which I, in turn, borrowed from Zaphod Beeblebrox himself, along with his underwear). Except, I might actually never find my spaceship, while Thomas definitely can show you his bouncy castle.

the Bouncy Castle Ambassador
the Bouncy Castle Ambassador

Meet Thomas who calls himself the Bouncy Castle Ambassador. ‘My mission is to bring this bouncy castle to the children all over the world, especially to the children who might never have a chance to enjoy a bouncy castle otherwise,’ he shared with me one chilly morning in Istanbul. That day, the yellow walls of his bouncy castle were inflated in the city for the first time, for the joy of a few dozens of children from Syrian refugee families.

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After a prolonged struggle with bureaucracy, the event was organized with the help of Assyrian Church in Tarlabaşi and was held nearby the Armenian church in Samatya. I showed up two hours late, and the kids seemed to be as full of bounce as they were from the start. They ended up hopping and skipping for 3 hours overall, until the parents pleaded Thomas the castle man to exercise his authority and announce that the jumpfest was over for the day. As far as I remember, when I was their age, I could jump for 3 hours straight as well, giving my parents a legit reason to enjoy beers on a park bench.

Thomas started his journey from Munich in late August 2014. From Croatia to Serbia and Bosnia, he has been in touch with International SOS Children’s Villages that helped him organise a space to set up his bouncy inflatable fortification, and advertise the event among the local communities. According to the blog stats, the largest bouncefest occurred in Lucavica, Bosnia, where about 220 children showed up, but this record for sure will soon be broken.

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Back in Munich, Thomas worked for an NGO that delivered bouncy castles and other equipment to schools. ’They had a faulty one and were going to discard it, so I offered to take it instead and patch all the holes. Not sure how I managed to do it, but now it is a fully functional and awesome yellow bouncy castle, and I got it for free!’

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Oh my, is he a crazy circus escapee? – you might ask. Does he paint his face like a clown and performs magical tricks? Does he sleep inside the castle too? Does he carry it on his back in a gigantic backpack? Does he roll it on a trolley? Is he single? Can adults come for a jump too? How many kilos of children this particular castle can withstand? How much money does the guy make out of this enterprise?

Hold on there. Bouncy castles and money should never be mentioned together in one sentence. That’s what bouncy castles stand for: Best Offbeat Units (Commonly Yellow) Creating Atmosphere for Sober Tumbling and Legal Entertainment. Whoever thought of monetising the idea of bouncy castle was a capitalist twat. This is what Thomas insists on: bouncy castles must be free and accessible for everyone. Every child in the world should be able to enjoy a bouncy castle at least once, no matter if they live in a Western city, a refugee shelter awaiting the vogons to process their immigration, or in a forgotten corner of some ‘developing country’.

Thomas’s initial intention was to travel overland to India in his magical blue van, but visa issues and bureaucratic hell with the documentation for the car apparently make Iran, Pakistan or Russia an impassable territory. Classic overland route to Africa is nowadays obstructed by the civil war in Syria, so it seems that the castle van will eventually be shipped to India instead of rolling there on four wheels. Which is a shame, because Russia, Iran and Pakistan could seriously use some bouncy castle time and chill.

I know of so many places in the world that could do with a bouncy castle. But many of them either have no roads or no electricity. If we ever decide to fundraise money and airlift that flippin’ yellow piece of happiness to a small settlement on the Karakorum highway, or into a tiny town in Burma, or a village in the Ugandan hills, or the desert of Somaliland, that would be really damn great.

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For further enjoyment, you can read the Bouncy Castle blog, follow the trip on Facebook and listen to Thomas’s interview in German on Bayern 2. Want to see the bouncy castle in your city? Just ask.

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