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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  2 November 1997
  Survival of the Fittest
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Greetings once again!

Another busy week in the Fell's household, our daily schedule seems to be the following:

1 Get up
2 Survive
3 Go to bed

As you can probably guess I've started another batch of work from my computer company in London, I have to do this work in parallel with everything else that I'm doing and at times it is difficult to squeeze in the hours I want to work.

Last week we bought a television to help with our Arabic study, up till now we have coped just fine without one. Occationally there are films in English and one week in 3 we have access to a video recorder. We've just finished with the Video recorder this week and it was great to watch some videos from England once again, we brought them with us on the off-chance that we will get access to a video machine. It was unfortunate that I was so busy or I would have tried to watch more videos but now we have 2 weeks without so this will force me to carry on with my work unhindered.

Yesterday I did my usual bit at the Arabic speaking children's club. I've mentioned before about the 3 spoilt kids from a non-church background who tend to cause disruption for the other teachers, well they were there again . . .

They come from rich families which always carries a lot of influence here- the children ALWAYS get what they want (there's no comparison with spoilt children in Britain, REALLY) and they show little respect for any type of authority.

This time I spoke about the story of the feeding of the 5000, and to illustrate a point I took two 50 Piastre notes (100 Piastres = 1 Egyptian Pound) and folded them together. I told them that when we give Him what we have He can make it increase in value. When I unfolded the notes they "became" one 50 Pound note. All the children really liked this trick and afterwards the 3 spoilt ones came up to me and said that they wanted to know how I did the trick. I told them that it was my little secret, and anyway they would have to start to be less disruptive in class if they wanted anything from me!

They couldn't believe that I refused to tell them so they started to insist. I refused. They insisted again, I refused again. They threatened me- I laughed, they said that they would not come again- I said that it was a deal, they tried to bribe me- I said "no way". For about 20 minutes they barred my way from leaving the premises until I told them, but still I refused. What really surprised me was the fact that they just couldn't accept "No" for an answer- they always get things their way and in the end they started to get quite aggresive.

When I finally managed to walk away I did so with a sense of satisfaction, to be honest I really enjoyed not telling them and seeing them squirm; for me it was the highlight of the week.

Earlier on this week I went to a conference that was arranged for me as a main speaker, it was a follow-up conference from the beginning of October of people doing the same thing on Sundays as Richard. The original conference was attended by about 200 from the churches in and around Cairo and it was thought that this follow-up conference would be attended by about 70.

The journey there took about an hour. I had a lot to carry- I had a big bag and sketchboard which I first took in a taxi, then on the underground metro to the place where I was speaking. Whenever I perform I always like to dress for the occasion in my black trousers, white shirt, Disney waistcoat and tie (with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck . . . etc.) ; the Egyptians always stare at foreigners, but especially if they are dresses like this.

I had difficulty in the main Metro station since it was so busy- it wasn't easy to carry the sketchboard when it is so crowded, I even had to stay out of a metro because there just wasn't enough room for me and the sketchboard and a big bag- I wondered if I was going to make it in time since the crowds of people where getting bigger the longer I waited. I heard a voice behind me saying "Mister Yasoon?" (my Arabic name) and I turned round to see a total stranger! He explained in Arabic that he was a delegate at the last conference and he remembered me from then. He was on his way to hear me speak again and instantly recognised me by what I was wearing! He offered to help me with my sketchboard and bag onto the metro but just before the metro arrived a policeman appeared and told us that we couldn't take the sketchboard onto the Metro because it was too big. My newly-found friend convinced the policeman that there wasn't a problem because we were only going 2 stops down (I would have had difficulty in convincing him with my limited Arabic). He let us go on and I had a sketchboard digging into my ribs for the two stops we travelled.

I finally made it to the conference venue but my translator was late . . . as were most of the other delegates (nothing starts on time here). I spent time preparing materials that I was going to hand out at the conference- I had previously prepared sets of rope in order to show them how to do several rope tricks with the appropriate messages. In accordance with the numbers that I was told I prepared 70 sets of rope.

By the time I started about 150 delegates had turned up- I was disapointed that so many would have to share these ropes but I couldn't do anything about it!

I started the session with a couple of sketchboard talks and then I asked them to take similar ideas and to make up there own sketchboard talks in small groups. I was really impressed by the ideas that they came up with, it was amazing because the Egyptian mind is not usually creative but the ideas that they came up with were great. Most of the time they do things by rote and memorisation- there is little room for creativity! Many of the delegates said that they were going to try out these ideas in there own places which I was really pleased about.

That's all that there's time for at the moment,

I'll write again next week,

Take care,

Jason, Alison and Hannah

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It's a Fact!

Facts about Egypt:

  • Egypt's population is 66 Million

  • Egypt is four times the size of the UK

  • Only 3% of the land can be used for arable crops

  • Cairo has 18 million people and is growing by 1 millon each year.

  • Cairo is the Largest city in Africa and the Middle East

  • Official literacy rate is only 45%

  • A total of 11 languages are spoken in Egypt

  • Public Debt per person is $790

  • Average annual income is $630

  • Unemployment is estimated to be 17%

  • Religion: Approx. 85% Muslim and 15% Christian

  • Most Christians are affiliated to the Orthodox Church, less than 1% of the population are Protestant

  • There are an estimated 100,000 street children in Cairo.


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