been a busy couple of weeks since I last wrote. Our group here
went on a retreat to a place outside Alexandria. There were guest
speakers and plenty of time for fellowship. You may remember in
my last E-Mail I mentioned that Egyptians don't always find it
easy to tell the truth, well let my give you an example. . .
arranged for a minibus to take us to the conference centre near
Alexandria. One of us arranged a meeting place and time in Cairo.
Whilst at the office the friend made sure about the arrangements.
He gave the name of the conference centre and asked the manager-
"Does the driver know where it is, because I can arrange
to fax you precise directions otherwise". His reply was-
"Yes, yes, we all know where it is". Still he insisted
on asking the driver in the offices- the reply was the same:
"Yes, I know where it is. It will take no more than two and
a half hours to get there". When we met together on the day
of travel the bus arrived and we checked again: "Are you
sure you know where to go?" The driver replied again in a
you can guess what happened- yes we got lost on the way there.
Very lost. The problem was further expounded by the fact that
we asked lots of people the way, and they didn't know either so
they made up an answer. We should have arrived at 6 o'clock, the
actually time we got there was past 9 o'clock. We reluctantly
paid the driver and arranged for him to take us back. We asked
him "Is 2pm on Saturday OK?"
"Yes, no problem" he replied.
"Are you sure, we can arrange a later time if need be"
"No, 2pm is fine, I'll probably be earlier . . . "
The time he actually arrived on the Saturday? Half past 4!
culture here is to always give the reply that the person WANTS
to hear. You can't always believe what you're told which is why
I've become cynical when asking for directions.
Friday was children's day in Egypt. The Egyptian church usually
arranges a special event for the Sunday Schools to attend. This
time there were over 600 children attending the special meeting
which lasted over 3 hours- I had two slots in the program. I've
learnt that in meetings like this to keep the presentation fast-moving
and interesting because it's much more difficult to keep the children's
attention due to the party atmosphere. I asked the children which
of them had seen me before, over half of them did. Not bad, I
thought for a random sample of children in Cairo! But I thought
afterwards that maybe they were just giving me the answer that
I wanted . . .
performed items like knife juggling and balloon modelling, all
with appropriate messages of course! I recently remembered a trick
of putting a sharp kitchen knife inside a balloon without bursting
it. I used this to illustrate how we can say words that hurt people,
like a knife going inside of us. But if we have received hurtful
words then with His protection we can allow it not to spoil our
lives. Many children have never seen things like this even on
television so it was easy to keep their attention. There was quite
a contrast a few hours later when I was performing at a child's
birthday party and there were mainly foreign, English speaking
children present. It was a lot more difficult to keep their interest
even for half an hour- I had to use the last resort of fire torches
. . .
couple of Fridays ago I had quite a shock. I had just finished
a busy few days where there had been many meetings. Finally I
managed to finish them all and I was exhausted so I decided to
go to bed at 3pm. Just as I was getting into bed Alison asked
me "Don't forget the meeting that you have at 5pm".
I had completely forgotten about it! And unfortunately it was
in a place where they have seen every message that I've done so
far so I usually have to put together something new. I got dressed
again and started to sketch out a few new ideas. I remembered
an idea that I had been toying with for a few weeks so I planned
a way of putting it on the sketchboard, then phoned my Arabic
teacher to get the words translated. Well, the outcome was that
both the teachers and the children really enjoyed it- but they'll
have no idea of how disorganised I was beforehand, they don't
see the panic and the hurried phone calls that go into making
a message like that!
interesting fact I found out the other day. I was in a five star
Hotel looking into the possibility of programming a central reservation
system for them. I asked the manager present how far in advance
bookings come, his reply was not usually more than 12 months.
Now I had heard earlier that all the hotels in Cairo were already
booked up for the year 2000 celebrations, so I asked the manager
when he first started to get bookings. I was surprised by his
reply- the first booking for the year 2000 was in 1987 while he
was working in another hotel chain. Shortly afterwards the hotel
was completely booked. The first booking was for a number of rooms
and required a deposit of $20,000- and he received it within a
couple of days.
of the hotels have put their prices up to meet the demand- one
hotel chain has prices of $3000 per room for the new year celebrations
and that is fairly typical. It seems that there are a lot of freaky
(and presumably rich!) new-age people out there that want to be
at the pyramids at the stroke of midnight to celebrate going into
the age of Aquarius, a new world order that promises peace and
prosperity. The ending of the age of adversity and polarisation.
. . what a load of old cobblers! There can never be true peace
without The Prince of Peace. Maybe I'll join them for the celebrations,
it could be a source of interesting conversations.
to one and all,
Alison, Hannah and Esther
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