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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  7 December 1997
  Preparing for Christmas
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Apologies for not writing last week! I was very busy with work for my London-based software company. I had to work loads of hours to send a program back via E-Mail on Sunday, then I took Monday and Tuesday off to have time with Alison and Hannah.

We also managed to send off our Christmas cards and next newsletter.

Since we were sending out cards from here anyway we decided to put our "cautious" newsletter in with it too- so this is one less thing for you to do. We figured that you'd probably be busy anyway and appreciate one less thing to do, right?! Our continued thanks go to you both for sending out the others, we always appreciate the work that you do.

The surprising thing about sending out the Christmas cards from here is that it is cheaper than sending them in Britain. Here we pay the equivalent of about 18 pence to send them to Britain which is cheaper than the second class postage in Britain.

Well it certainly doesn't feel like December; I've started to wear my leather jacket but it gets far too hot when I'm walking outside in the sun, we've had to start using the quilt at night though. I asked someone living here when it starts to get cold, he told me that this is the time of year and it IS cold! Hmmm, OK I don't think that I've fully acclimatised! All of the Egyptians are wearing jumpers and coats but to me it still feels like late September weather in Britain without the rain. My Arabic teacher told me that it is actually quite warm for this time of year so it looks like we'll just have to wait and see how cold it will really get. One thing is certain though- it's a dead cert that it won't be a white Christmas.

Alison started to feel ill today, and she's in bed with a temperature. There's a nasty bug going around at the moment and I think she must have it- I hope that I don't get it because I have too much to do!

I'm surprised to see lots of Christmas decorations and stuff in many shops here. Many Christians living here will buy trees and decorations and celebrate Christmas like the people in the West. There are some main differences here though- firstly Christmas is actually celebrated according to the Coptic Church's Calendar, ie 7th January, secondly it is not heavily commercialised. We have decided to spend Christmas together as a family with a traditional meal, perhaps. We've been warned that turkeys are quite expensive to buy (we have some American friends who wanted one for their Thanksgiving festival) so we might just have to make do with a large chicken instead.

I remember thinking when I was a child that Christmas must be boring for adults because they don't get as many presents as children. Now I realise that the pleasure really is in seeing the children enjoying themselves . . . mind you I'm going to make sure that Hannah's going to get some things that I can play with too (there was a nice music keyboard that I saw in the toy shop . . . )

I'm still being kept busy speaking engagements. Yesterday I lead the singing and some of the speaking part of a Family morning service (Friday is the normal day of meeting here, don't forget). It was quite strange because it was to an English speaking audience and I didn't need to be translated- I'm so used to speaking in short sentences and waiting for the translation before proceeding! Later on in the afternoon I was at the second biggest Egyptian congregation in the whole of Egypt for this "type" of congregation. I was speaking to the older half of the children's group with about 70 children present. I'm continually amazed by the teaching methods here and the reliance on memorisation. At the moment this group of children are being encouraged to memorise 10 psalms and recite them at the front. While I was present one girl recited a psalm- I'm not sure which one it was (in Arabic of course) but I know that it wasn't one of the short ones! Even more amazing when you realise that they must memorise from a very old and difficult translation.

Since my teaching methods are more to so with application and re-telling stories in a different way the children are always attentive because what I say is often new to them. If I ask a question to do with the facts of a story nearly all of the children will put up their hands because they know the answer; but ask as question like "Why was this story told?", or "What does it mean for us today?" they find it much more difficult.

Next Friday I will be helping at an event to raise money for an orphanage at the other side of the city called "Helwan". I've been to this orphanage before (where I lost 20 pounds, remember!) so this time I'm going to be extra careful with everything that I do!

I'll write my next update sometime after that,

That's all from us for now,

Toodle Pip,

Jason, Alison & 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 Egypt


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