We've only returned to Cairo 3 weeks ago but somehow it seems
much longer. I've had to revise the list I'm sending this out
to, if this is the first time you've received this update remember
the following: The purpose of this update is to keep our friends
and family up to date on what's happening here. So many people
ask to be kept informed so we decided to send out a regular update
about once every two weeks. We hand-pick the recipients since
we want to make sure this information isn't "misused"
in anyway. Remember that because of the area we are in, you may
have to read between the lines to get the full picture . . . an
similarly you must be careful about your replies. And on the subject
of replies- don't feel you have to anyway! If everyone were to
send a personal reply to each update then we would feel obliged
to reply personally back . . . hence defeating the object of the
easy "one for all" update. Write to us by all means
but don't feel that you must do it for each update.
Enough said on that. Now what's it been like since we returned?
Well just to make sure everyone is in tune with what has been
happening I'll recap on what has happened over the past few months.
In August last year we went for the regular ultra-sound scan to
make sure everything was fine with the pregnancy- unfortunately
the doctor found that the heart beat wasn't beating correctly.
The condition is called irregular arrhythmia, and the baby's heartbeat
was dropping from 145 beats per minute to 55 beat per minute.
We found out later that this is an unusual condition for the unborn
baby and it could indicate there was a physical defect with the
Because of the lack of specialist facilities in Egypt, and after
much prayer and thought we decided that Alison, Hannah and Esther
returned to the UK at the beginning of September whilst I stayed
in Egypt to finish off engagements and returned in October. Shortly
after Alison arrived in the UK a specialist hospital in Birmingham
took a detailed scan of the baby's heart and measured the pulse
over a period of time. They concluded that there was no physical
defect, and anyway- there was no irregular heartbeat either! (He
have print-outs from equipment in Egypt to show it WAS there originally!!)
On January 14th Lydia Ruth was born fit and healthy and there
have been no problems with her heart since then. We want to testify
how grateful we are on how it all turned out in the end.
Whilst living in Egypt I had an arrangement with a company in
London to do programming work and return it with E-mail. This
work would help to top up our finances. For some reason they stopped
paying my wages (I believe they were having financial difficulties)
and they owed me over 4 months wages which they've never paid.
Because of this I had to find other employment whilst living in
the UK. Through a friend I managed to find a company which wanted
a database specialist for a short-term contract. The situation
was ideal for me and I worked there for three and a half months
until we returned to Cairo at the beginning of March.
To be honest, the work I did in the UK was fine but to be sat
down for eight hours a day became boring for me- I'm not used
to being sat down for such a long stretch. The work I'm involved
with here required that I'm always on the move and often the days
have a certain degree of unpredicability. I'm nevertheless grateful
for the work I did there and I certainly enjoyed working alongside
the other staff members but I think it would take a while to get
used to working in that kind of environment again.
Now that I've returned I'm starting to think that maybe having
an office job where I sit in the same place for eight hours and
do assigned tasks may not be such a bad thing after all!
Before I returned to the UK in October I agreed to help a friend
with his internet company he started in Cairo. The company designs
and writes web pages for the internet. This is an area I have
no real experience with but I was willing to look after the company
whilst he was on "home leave" for ten months. Because
of the problems with the other company in London I've had to find
another source of income, and this internet company could be the
place but the work is unpredictable and clients are often reluctant
to pay! I can see the next few months are not going to be easy.
The day after we arrived back to Egypt the former manager and
I went to the court so I could have power of attorney over the
affairs of the company. My friend had been working on this for
weeks, since bureaucracy in Egypt had to be seen to be believed
I understood why it took so long to prepare the papers. The procedure
was something like- first go to that government office to get
a certain form, then go to another government office to get an
official form to confirm the existence of the company, next go
to another office to get the first form filled in and stamped-
then get a translation of the company's papers in another office
and get this translation verified at another government office
. . . etc. etc. Each office has a long queue and unhelpful staff
who send you to another office to get something first before they
can process your request.
Anyway, I was told that all that was needed was to go to a court
building and sign the appropriate papers- a procedure which would
take about 10 minutes. Of course I never believed this, and since
the manager had been in Egypt for longer than me I couldn't believe
how he could think that the final stage could be that simple-
it's NEVER that easy in Egypt, something ALWAYS goes wrong.
Of course I was right! When we presented the papers to the court
clerk she scowled at them intently. These government workers get
paid next to nothing, and in my experience they always try to
find fault with papers because:
1) It gives them a feeling of importance that someone like themselves
can stop a big business venture;
2) They avoid work at all costs. If possible they send the people
away to make corrections or fill in another form;
3) They might get a bribe go speed up the proceedings or to overlook
It took her about a minute to find the fault to halt everything.
Two of the forms had translated the manager's name into two different
spellings in Arabic, the difference was one alphabetic character
and the fault was with another government office, but it was enough
to halt all proceedings. No amount of pleading could change her
mind- and the procedure to correct the mistake would be just as
easy as to start all over again.
This was my welcome back to Egypt- it was nice to know that nothing
has changed in the way of red-tape and to be honest I was neither
surprised or discouraged. Because the manager was leaving the
next day we decided to just have an internal company document
that I had complete responsibility for the company during the
absence of the manager; we hope this will be sufficient!
The other work is going well. The day after we arrived back the
phone started ringing with requests for meetings. One of these
locations is a place I won't forget, the deaf school in an area
called Maadi. It is organised by the Anglican church in Egypt,
and in particular by the daughter of the arch-bishop of Egypt
and Sudan, she is known as Sister Claire. I thought I was just
going to talk to the children, but because it was in the evening
many of the parents and other deaf people in the area came too,
it was like a community meeting in all there were about 80 present.
I set up my sketchboard which aroused a lot of curiosity- the
children tried communicating to me in sign language. I was surprised
by the fact that I could have a good guess what the gestures meant-
but I just couldn't respond in the right way. Fortunately help
was at hand- the centre has two helpers from Northern Ireland
who of course understand English and Egyptian Arabic sign language
too! I spoke to them afterwards and they told me it is easier
to learn Arabic sign language than it is to learn the Arabic language-
after six months they could communicate easily with the children-
I had to admit I was slightly envious! After three years in Egypt
I STILL have difficulty communicating effectively in Arabic.
Sister Claire appeared and welcomed me to the centre. She is the
one in charge of the centre and called the meeting to order and
spoke in Arabic along with sign language, so I was able to understand
what she was communicating. Everyone sat down in a courtyard area
in a U shape facing the direction of the sketchboard. To begin
the meeting she asked for someone to begin with a prayer. The
volunteer walked to the front of the group and did the prayer
completely in sign language. Of course no one closed their eyes
because if they did they would miss the prayer! After the prayer
had finished everyone "signed" the Lord's Prayer- it
was all done in complete silence and seemed surreal to the outside
observer. After the last "Amen" I was introduced as
"Yasoon" (my Arabic name) from England.
Most children have a simple sign name and I was asked if they
could make one up for me, I agreed- I was told to be careful since
they commonly choose something unusual about the person's appearance.
I dreaded to think what it could be. Whilst in England for four
months I had put on two weigh stone in weight; (going from two
meals a day to four is bound to have some detrimental effect!)
but I needn't have worried, after being asked what my sign should
be they all simultaneously took the thumb and middle finger on
one hand and placed them on their foreheads then swept them backwards
to the top of the head- they were indicating that I had a receding
hairline and this should be my sign. All I can say is that it's
a good job I'm no insecure about the state of my hair.
I gave them a sketchboard talk and did some magic tricks and I
was surprised by how well they "listened"- of course
they don't make any noise when they get excited but they do turn
to each other and start signing- in this way it is easy to see
who is not "listening". Afterwards I gave all the children
a piece of rope and showed them how to do simple magic tricks
for themselves. Sister Claire informed me that the type of material
I was sharing was perfect for these children because it is so
visual- the adults enjoyed it too. I was asked to return to give
teacher training sessions to show the teachers at the school how
to use a sketchboard and give a bible lesson using it. Of course
I agreed, but I only regret not having enough time to visit the
school on a regular basis.
Whilst playing with the children afterwards I started to learn
their sign language- I think this suits me much better than the
spoken language. They showed me some of their rope tricks too.
It was a bit of a problem being surrounded by so many children
all wanting my attention. Normally in these situations the children
will call out my name, but these kids get someone's attention
by tapping each other on the shoulder. I think I must have had
about ten children all tapping me on the shoulders simultaneously
whilst I was with them.
Most of last week was spent writing web pages for a client and
doing company administration. I know where I'd prefer to be, so
I guess it makes me more grateful when I can leave the office
and do something I enjoy!
I hope this E-mail finds you all well
Jason, Alison, Hannah, Esther and Lydia
Return to Cairo
population is 66 Million
is four times the size of the UK
Only 3% of the land can be used for arable crops
has 18 million people and is growing by 1 millon each year.
is the Largest city in Africa and the Middle East
literacy rate is only 45%
total of 11 languages are spoken in Egypt
Debt per person is $790
annual income is $630
is estimated to be 17%
Approx. 85% Muslim and 15% Christian
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