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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  20 January 1998
  Last minute planning
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Yes, I KNOW that I haven't written for ages!

I've been busy with work for the company in London and trying to do meetings. It's been busy but I have a few days off at the moment to catch up with everything.

Working at night and sleeping in the moment works out OK for getting work done but it isn't so good for family life. We are currently having a balcony changed into an extra room to be used as an office- Once this is finished I hope to work more sociable hours . . . but to be honest I didn't particularly mind working at night, really!

The teacher's conference in Alexandria went really well. I'm continually surprised by the way the Egyptians organise these events. It all seems to be done by word of mouth at short notice. I arrived in Alex Thursday evening, by then hardly any of the arranging had been done, the conference was to be on the Friday evening. The church had been booked but the Sunday School teachers knew nothing of the conference- I assumed that there would be hardly any there. On the Friday morning I took a Sunday School class, they listened well but I was asked to speak for longer than their attention span could cope with. I should have insisted on finishing earlier but in Egypt you have to learn to be flexible.

In the evening I was surprised to see how many Sunday School teachers actually turned up, about 100 at a guess- all done at the last minute. They listened better than the children I had earlier that day! They were full of enthusiasm for the teaching methods I showed them; it was a change to the usual methods that they have. I don't particularly like talking to adults, they don't respond in the same way as children and often they feel patronised if I paint simple pictures or show them magic tricks. I shared this with the teachers and asked them to help me by looking interested and participating when asked . . . so they did!

A typical Sunday School lesson here involves the teacher telling a story and the children memorising key verses. There is a great emphasis on the facts but little is taught based on understanding or application to our lives. What I teach them in comparison is revolutionary, it is unusual to have lessons that are interesting, entertaining and fun as well as learning some key truths at the same time. I have to say that there are a lot good things about their methods too- the bible knowledge of the children is quite impressive. I can build on this in the lessons and use what they already know to make really interesting lessons.

The weekend before last Alison and I were in a poor area to attend the opening of a new nursery school that was connected to a local church. The area was one of the poorest that I've been to since I've been here. We had to walk the last part because the roads were impassable in a car. When I entertained the children it was obvious that they hadn't seen anything like it before.

In comparison with this I went to a Church in one of the richer areas of the city last Friday. The children responded well here too but somehow I feel that they don't appreciate it as much as the children in the poor area!

I feel that doing all of these meeting really justifies my time here. Although I'm usually very busy with work most of the week I really enjoy taking these meetings and speaking to large numbers of children.

Alison's pregnancy continues to go well. She is having practice contractions on a regular basis and we already have our plans on what to do when they start coming thick and fast. Hopefully this won't be until the end of next month. The worst time for it to happen is during the rush hour on Thursday- we may have difficulties getting to the hospital . . . in time.

For some reason Hannah has taken a sudden dislike to going to our near-by nursery. We may have to remedy this by one of us staying with her throughout the session. We'll be leaving her with friends who live close to us when it is time to have the baby- they have four children themselves which Hannah likes to play with.

Since we're both busy we've decided to send our ironing to the local "mak-woggy" ie someone who does the ironing for you. It's not too expensive and it works out fine- now that we have a washing machine we seem to have all the more ironing. The only trouble with the mak-woggy is the way some of them do the ironing: Often they put the water in their mouth then spit it out onto the clothes before proceeding to press it with the iron. I didn't think that our local mak-woggy did this, but after going there today to pick up the latest batch I saw others doing this in the shop . . . I think I'll just have to get used to wearing clothes with dried saliva pressed therein. Perhaps I should be grateful that we haven't had a water shortage.

That's all for this week,

Toodle Pip,

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 Egypt


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