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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  08 May 2000
  Car Problems and Egypian Easter
  Return to Cairo Update Index

Dear friends,

Yes, OK I know itís been a while since I last wrote. My aim has always been to write these updates once every two weeks, but in reality it appears to be once every three or four weeks. Our course if I *intended* to write once every three or four weeks it would be closer to every six weeks so Iíll persevere with my original intention in the hope that one day it will be achieved.

I have been very busy since I last wrote. For one thing I returned to England by myself to be the best man at a wedding in London. Iíve always said that Iíve never suffered from real culture shock; itís been such a blessing to seamlessly transfer from one lifestyle to another without adverse mental reactions. One this return visit I was really taken back by the climate- I think Iíll call it weather-shock and it was the curse of my life for the duration of my six day stay.

I took a leather jacket to wear but forgot a scarf and gloves and it was soon evident that this was a big mistake. When I left the aeroplane on the Thursday at Heathrow it was five degrees (the same temperature as a fridge) and I really felt it this time. The weather-shock seems to get worse each time I return.

The wedding on Saturday went really well- the weather didnít dampen our spirits by any means! This was one of the most enjoyable weddings Iíve attended and along with many others I wish Graham and Diane all the best for their future together.

By Sunday I developed a real stinker of a cold and I spent the rest of the time in the UK either in bed, watching videos or buying things we canít get in Egypt; I always made sure there was a box of tissues within reaching distance.

It was really good to get back to nice weather again and my fear that I would infect the population of Cairo was unfounded. Since returning a couple of weeks ago it seems that I havenít stopped. As you probably know I work part-time in Egypt in my area of speciality of computers. This gives me a reason for being here as well as topping-up our financial support. Iíve recently changed my area of specialisation and now Iím doing a lot more web-page development, but I feel like Iím climbing up the steep part of the learning curve. At the moment Iím working for the Bible Society of Egypt, they need to have their internet site completely redeveloped and at times I feel that Iím a bit out of depth.

Just in case any of you want to know the web-page address- donít bother! Itís all in Arabic and your web page browser will freak out on the first page. (This gives assurance that only Egyptians will criticise the work and not westerners)

The work of running the company has been more difficult than I first imagined, it is quite a juggling act to try and deal with problems clients are having as well as develop web pages and chase after unpaid invoices. As a result my time spent on ministry has suffered so Iíve had to take steps to put this right. The next six weeks will be difficult as I finish the work with the Bible Society but afterwards I hope to take on the same number of Childrenís meetings as before.

The Egyptians celebrated Easter last week (the orthodox Easter is later than the Western Easter) and last week Iíve been taking meeting with an Easter theme. Itís great to concentrate on the central theme of our message. In the City of Peace I was able to give a presentation where three children made first-time commitments. It is such a privilege to be part of the ongoing work with the street-children there.

In the past Iíve mentioned about a place called Hagaana which is one of the poorest places Iíve ministered in. There is no proper road system beyond the area, the ďroadsĒ are impassable for cars and have to be travelled either by 4-wheel drive or by foot. After I returned from England at the beginning of March I heard that the couple who run the childrenís project are under a lot of strain because of its popularity. In two years the number of regular attendees at the mid-week meeting has risen from 20 to over 180. The numbers attending the main church service have risen consequently too. The children that attend the mid-week service have a short attention span and have hardly had any schooling. There can play quite rough but their hearts are in the right place. Once or twice Iíve seen fights started as a consequence of arguing who is going to begin the meeting with a prayer!

When I attended last week there were a lot of new faces and again I concentrated on the Easter theme; a handful professed to have made first-time commitments.

Attending the meeting had its consequences. On the way there I was proudly driving in my little car- it has been such a blessing to me to easily transport equipment for meetings without the hassle of getting into taxis and metros. On the way I noticed that the engine was overheating, I had previously topped it up with water a number of times at the beginning of a journey, but then it seemed to have develop a more serious problem. I was keen to get to the meeting quickly so I stopped the engine and waited a few minutes for the water to cool before taking off the radiator cap.

I had a large bottle of water with me which I poured into the radiator which responded with a loud hissing sound, this confirmed it WAS hot- very hot but since the destination was only a 10 minute drive I continued. On the way back from the meeting I spoke with one of the leaders of the group, who just so happens to be an engineer.

I explained the problem with the car and he told me that in no circumstances should I add cold water to the radiator of a hot engine without first starting the engine. I explained that this was exactly what I did and I asked if it would cause problems. He evaded the question by saying that he needs to see the car first.

When we reached the car his fears were realised! He poured water into the radiator tank and we watched it drain way. I looked under the car to see if the water was dripping from somewhere underneath, but it wasnít. This was a mystery to me so I asked where the water was going. He took the dipstick and showed me the colour of the oil- a nice sandy colour. He explained that the water was mixing with the oil in the engine. Even my limited mechanical experience told me this was not good.

He went on to explain (if memory serves me correctly) that adding cold water to a hot engine causes heat shock if the engine isnít running, and this ruptures the gasket and causes the oil and water to mix. Basically the car was a dead duck until the problem was fixed. I asked the burning question- how much was it going to be. He said he needed to ask a mechanic friend to come and tow the car away and do the fix. He wouldnít commit himself to a price until he phoned the friend (I think he wanted to get the bad news straight from the horses mouth.)

Fortunately his mechanic friend was at home, and so was able to get me an immediate quote. It has to be said that labour costs in Egypt are very cheap. Car parts are also made in Egypt and again labour costs keep the cost of parts to a minimum. The mechanic gave the following quote: Tow the car away, replace the gasket set, change the oil and water, perform a thorough check on the engine and return the car- four hours work plus parts costing a grand total of . . . the equivalent of just over 18 pounds sterling. I explained to my friend that he would get a shock if he went to Britain to get his car fixed!

In the end I told him to get the mechanic to re-tune the engine while he was at it and fix the original problem (which turned out to be a faulty fan switch)- the final bill was about 23 pounds sterling. Remember that we donít get the same amount of money as we did whilst living in Britain, but still a bit different from what Iím used to. I had the assurance that my engineer friend would oversee the work (there mechanics can sometimes cut corners!)

Iíve spoken to a number of people since then about the problem of adding cold water to a hot engine- i.e. making sure the engine is running at the time. It seems that EVERYONE knows about this except me. How come Iíve missed out on this essential item of knowledge? I hope to be in a position one day to pass this knowledge on to some other ignorant non-mechanically minded person with the same degree of certainly and self-assurance that it is VERY obvious. It reminds me of the definition of an ignoramus- someone who doesnít know what you learnt yesterday.

Actually, I had a different mechanic to look at another problem on the car the previous week. A connection between the gear-stick and engine had snapped outside my house, since I couldnít get any gears the car couldnít be driven to the garage. The mechanic came with an Egyptian friend and first went underneath the car and lodged the car into third gear. He then drove me for about 20 minutes through Cairo traffic to his garage using only third gear (I hate to think what it did to the clutch!). He did the repair and at my request also changed the spark-plugs, distributor cap and petrol filter. All of the parts plus over three hours of his time cost me a total of about 13 pounds sterling.

Itís nice to know there are some real advantages to living here- cheap car repairs is something I will always be grateful for.

As I close this update I would like to wish you all a belated Happy Easter!


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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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