a story about a trampoline

12 02 2013

When I was small one of the things I longed for was a  trampoline.  There was one family that I remember having one. It was always such a treat to be able to jump, and I so wished that we could get a trampoline too.

Sport, movement and co-ordination were never my strong points.  It was a moment of tremendous pride when I got that move right… jumping  on feet– knees- bum – back to feet.  What a star!  That was about the best I could ever get right. I might have learned some other tricks had we had a trampoline of our own (they were so expensive in SA when I was small, so it never happened) but the wish was there. 

I was struck by God’s sense of humour when we first came to look at this house in Bwiru. There stood a trampoline in our garden!   I have a trampoline!  Wow!   Another element of humour is that we do not have children to enjoy it… but I knew there is a reason for it being in our garden. Some Wazungu (whities), somewhere in the past of the house, got it to Tanzania with great effort and it stands in our garden! I have not felt the longing to go jumping on it yet, but invitations to visitors with kids always includes the allure of the trampoline.

There have been a number of kids who have enjoyed it so far, and it brings me such enjoyment to see the joy, fun and high-higher-highest jinx the kids get up to. 

I usually worry terribly too:

After several years of African sun and rain, the rust has built up badly and each jumping session keeps me praying that the trampoline will stand a little longer and not konk in totally.

Earlier today there were kids who got to play as a break during craft class.

These little ones know how to do it! The last minute or so saw all of them climbing on (there are normally number restrictions to keep the thing from collapsing). And boy, do they love it. Playing ‘popcorn’, seeing who can go highest, tricks that they know are fun.






While the number-control was in place some of the older kids were not thrilled at standing waiting and clung to the outer edges, grabbing every moment of tramp time they could. Not quite on the springy part, but enjoying a challenge of being almost there, just waiting for a chance to be in there, all effort, all energy.




Later this afternoon, I heard kids’ voices outside. I wondered if some of the children from earlier had returned, but I looked to see that our garden worker, Mussa, had brought two of his children to help him do his work.  I left the children for a while and heard them carrying a way buckets full of pulled grass.

Then I wondered if they too would enjoy a little bit of jumping. Mussa had seen the children jumping earlier and as my Swahili is far too basic to instruct at this time, he was able to tell the children what to do.

And then God started speaking to me.

Just yesterday my friend had encouraged me to look at this video.

The parallels were obvious. 

Little Debi’s first step or two were hesitant, but almost immediately he began jumping. Lifting feet, throwing his arms up for momentum, leaping into the air.

Na-ema was far more careful. Maybe it is a girl / boy thing, but she just did not want to move away from the edges.

Baba (father) stood on the outside, shouting, “Go to the middle! Go jump there!”

The middle is scary. Away from the edges, that are so secure to hold on to. Where the give of the trampoline is so much more. You can  SEE it from the edges.  One bounces more. Higher. closer to the clouds. And to the ground below the trampoline. 

But that is where the fun and abandon is greater too. More euphoric. Greater joy.

And when he saw how his children were beginning to jump, Mussa laughed so. The tears ran. He delighted in his children’s joy. It was a pleasure for him that his children were doing something so extra-ordinary (Trampolines are FAR outside the daily experience of 99% of Tanzanians). That they had gone up the steps, crawled through the hole of netting, and had stepped onto the great black expanse. They were jumping. And Baba was thrilled at their glee.

Then I encouraged Mussa himself to climb on.

It took a bit of coaxing, but he got on. It was obviously funny to see him experience something so strange below his feet, and it took a number of tries before he could stand up straight for longer than a few seconds. But then he let go. The kids climbed on and joined him again…

When Na-ema knew Baba was near, she felt free-er to jump. The absolute glee that these three radiated for these minutes was a privilege to observe. Normally dads and their kids do not play together in Tanzania. But here it was: father loving that his kids were happy, kids loving a few moments of seeing Baba going through the same struggles of standing that they were. But loving it when they flew through the air. And feeling that when they came down, the landing was soft. There was a support below them, that would not let them land on the hard cement below. 

They could jump, safely. Trying a new experience, however terrifying it may have been at first, but now such fun.

The Father longs to see His children in delight. He encourages us to test our faith, to try those challenging things He has called us to (please let me know if you find the Bible verses that point out that God seeks our safe, sedate, calm little lives). He yells: “Go to the middle. Yes, it is deeper there.  But GO!”

And He even joins us. God incarnate came, to join us in our experiences of life. He put on frailty, humanity and joins us. In the middle. In the storms (there were several that Jesus went through with His disciples).In hysterical laughter with His disciples at times. In deep grief if they fell and experienced a boo-boo (as the kids sometimes get on the trampoline). But He was THERE. With them. Not just standing aloof, wishing they would stop having such fun.

And He says to me today: Go to the middle.Climb the rickety steps. Crawl through the net. Get into the big unknown.

It seems like God is trying to say something to me right now.  I have a longing to go deeper than where I am with Him. Clinging to the edges, holding onto netting sides that are not really as strong as they seem, while others are leaping wildly, enjoying the freedom of faith in things they cannot really understand, but they bound upwards, outwards, in the middle where the most fun is to be had.

Perhaps you, too, need the nudge. Go. To the middle.

Go do that thing you have been scared of. Go deeper, free-er.  You will not be alone. Father is there. He is everywhere.

And perhaps He will bring your ‘trampoline’ to your garden. Not just for your own enjoyment, but to share the joy with others.  His love is never meant for singular enjoyment, but is always intended to stretch further, wider, like the taut springs that keep the trampoline in its place but moving out too.

Go for it. Jump.  It is fun in the middle…


want to go for a walk?

6 02 2013

Ok, then.  Grab your hat (the sun is still rather sharp at about 6 pm) and get shoes on.  Now for a few moments of tricky movement.  Pull out the black leash and as Tulip hears the buckles she is jumping up and down, excitement drooling along with the spit as she pants and jumps up onto me.  Try to get the leash fixed around her neck (this usually takes a few tries as she dances around in joy) and we are dashing to the gate, arm outstretched, heading for a few moments of canine and human exercise.

I must apologise as today will not be our completely usual style of walk. I am taking the camera along to try and share some of our environment with a few friends, so I will be stopping often and I must also try not to let the camera be seen by too many… oops, too late.  I have been asked to take pictures almost as soon as we are out the gate. Oh, well. It does not happen every day.  Let’s see if Tulip will play along and stop as often as I need to grab a shot.

Wow. Look at the clouds this evening.  There is a bit of cumulus gathered to the east, which does not usually mean rain for us, so I will enjoy the shapes of the clouds just for that. 

can you hear the cows? It is just the time for them to be heading back to their night lodging kraals.  No, we do not live on a farm.  Yes, we do just have cows and goats around us all the time.    Yes, those are rice paddies just in front of the house. They are nice and wet at the moment, and the workers are busily replanting the shoots, removing all weeds and attending to their paddies often.  Oh, behind  and between the cows? Today is Soccer / football practise day and the guys are running laps to warm up.  Yes, just between the cows.  They are truly committed to the game.

Here are our first posers… snap, please.  Notice the big water pool behind the young soccer player. When I don’t mind that Tulip’s feet get muddy we sometimes balance across the rocks to walk across the field that way. But we will avoid that today: the cows have just walked through so it will be really muddy.

Slow down, Tulip. Pole! (por-leh).  You are frightening the poor little goats.

No? You won’t slow down? Then let’s move quickly to get past them and give them a bit of peace.

Oh, wow. A fishing boat is right nearby. We do not see that every day.   And can you hear the choir practising in the church just on the left there? Everyday at this time, for a few hours, the keyboard throbs, the microphones screech for a while and the singing gets going.  Sometimes there are 2 groups practising, both with their own PA systems, different tunes. One group inside the church and one just outside.  It is a vibrant, joyful noise.

We go quite fast here, so not many snaps. Footsteps behind seem just a little too close. But we pass through an area of more paddies, and I often here the frogs beginning their own choir practices as I go through this section. I would love to show you the lovely white impatiens type blooms here, or the vivid orange daisy type flowers. Perhaps we can see them another day. The two little babies sleeping on a kitenge besides the paddy as their mother worked the fields from the last few days are not there today. I wonder if she was bone tired and just went home, or if she is satisfied with the condition of her fields for the next few days?

“Pole. Hamna shida…”  Part of the daily ritual at least a few times: the poor girl has gone to cower around a corner, taking great pains to avoid the ferocious looking dog at my heel. “Hamna shida, Dada.” Sorry, sister. No problems.  The great thing is that Tulip looks rather fierce, but she is as dangerous as her name suggests. Everyday a few people will run from her, but once she is on the leash  (and really, when she is off too!) she is a totally good doggie.  She is the sweetest thing.   But I try to move quickly beyond scared sister, and do not even try to capture her terror on the camera.

Look how well the corn is growing! And the companion planting with tomatoes seems to be doing well. Wow!

Now we are around the first part of the loop,  back to the opposite end of the soccer field.

See how green everything is? And the clouds, now from another angle… beautiful.

The cows have moved off and the soccer players have started working on techniques now.

There was a big game over the weekend, which required that there be some kind of net between their posts. It was still hanging  well yesterday, but by today the knotted banana fibers had fallen from between the posts and are just lying on the ground.  I thought it was a clever plan, when finances for a good net are simply not available.

Then we are off across the field, and come closer to our house, just across the paddies. But Tulip is not ready to go home so we continue on our normal loop.

And then we see the reminder of our huge blessings that we so often take for granted.  There is a steady group of girls coming to the pipe today.

Would you have THIS smile on your face? Filling the bucket, pot full by pot full, and then carrying it home?  Perhaps three or four times a day? And that water does not look too clean…   On the weekends clothes are washed and spread out to dry just near this hole.  It is easier to bring the clothes to wash here than carry the water back home.

I don’t mean to sound preachy, but it sort of puts one can too little of beer, or a shortage of soda at the store into a new perspective.  And worrying about not having the latest model phone, or i-pad, or… Don’t get me started on that…

So many gracious faces who wanted a picture taken, setting the heavy water buckets aside to stand and smile, and then giggle as they saw themselves in the screen.  Precious, precious faces… 

And all the while, Tulip stood quietly at my feet, and I even let the leash slip at one point.  Ah, fierce flower!

But obviously she did strike terror into one creature as we made our way on again…





What? That thing has big teeth. And it barks every time I walk past the gate. And it is heading towards me.  Maybe if I freeze it will just ignore me.  Wait. Maybe I should run.. Help…


(We just walked past, bovine creature moved aside, and there was no blood shed.)




We always see the little egrets, by the dozen, in the rice paddies, but not always the open billed storks.  Oh, it is lovely to see the bird life around.

They are really moving it with this house being built.  The builders are always a little silly. Making comments about the dog, and even very impressively calling me “doggi-tar”, or doctor, because I am with a doggie.  Ah, We shrug it off and keep moving. 

I am always a  little uncertain in this part. There were ducks in the road one day that Tulip so longed to chase. There is also a dog in a yard that sometimes barks very harshly. On Monday another dog stood in the pathway and I had to work out a few plans to avoid canine warfare. But today the road is clear, and I hear the sounds of a bleating warbler (carmeroptera) singing it nightsong. A very quick flash of him across the road is all I am permitted to see, but he does lead me to look at how well the fruit threes are doing.


I miss the mango trees of our Mbale, Uganda garden, so it is great to see how well the fruit in other gardens grow. This one may not last the rest of the week on the tree, it will probably be picked and eaten very soon. Rather green for my taste, but that is how people like them here!











And one last visual joy just before we head back into the gate.  I love the brightness of these blooms.

So, that is our short route.  It is about a kilometer in all, and we will stretch this when I am sure that my lungs are up to it and I have a little more time.  Each day brings some similar sights but then everyday holds new surprises too. Who will greet kindly? Who will ask for a handout? What birds or flowers or lizards will I see today? And what will Tulip’s presence add to the mix? 

It is a time I look forward to each day. Hoping you can join me in real life some time.