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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  28 November 2000
  Stone me!
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Dear Friends,

I've been in a lot of pain recently, and there's been no one but myself to blame. My three-year-old kidney stone problem has re-emerged again and I'm regretting not drinking enough to stop them from occurring.

Just two weeks ago I decided out of the blue to have an ultra-sound scan to assess the progress on the stone in my left kidney. The news was not good- the stone had increased in diameter from 3mm to 5mm, and IN ADDITION there were two extra stones in my right kidney, both about 3mm in diameter. The doctor's advice was the same as the doctors before him: drink. I asked him about the possibility of passing the stone as big as 5mm, he explained that
he had passed a stone himself which was 12mm in diameter! Man, I find that almost beyond belief- he explained that it was unimaginably painful but possible.

He had further advice as to what to drink- beer! Ah-ha, so that's how he coped with the pain, he got himself stoned first (forgive the pun!). He went on to explain that beer is one of the best things to drink to flush out kidney stones. The malt in the beer softens the urethra tubes from the kidney to the bladder, and the alcohol dilates the tubes and causes the drinker to pass water more often. He didn't give an upper limit of how much to drink, but the more the better. In essence his advice was to get paralysed every night until the kidney stones were passed, then I would be too drunk to care about the pain.

Well, unfortunately for me I don't actually like beer, never have- and there are only three types of beer which you can buy in Egypt. The foreign stuff which is imported and has a high "vice" tax: This stuff can cost about £4 a pint but is at least palatable. The alternative is to buy Egyptian beer. Now the Egyptian beer making industry is not well advanced, bear in mind that the majority religion here don't touch any kind of alcoholic drinks, so there isn't the demand to have a wide selection of quality beer. The non-alcoholic stuff is foul and tastes like washing up water, the alcoholic stuff (as the doctor ordered) is barely drinkable but quite cheap, less than 80p for a 500ml can. For the past couple of weeks I've tried to drink one can each evening. I've found it more palatable to drink it whilst eating something savoury, but it is still an effort to get through the whole can. If only I could get cider here . . .

On Monday morning I woke up with a slight pain in my left kidney, and it was getting worse as I lay down. The pain is usually an indication that the stone is moving- it causes inflammation in the kidney which in turn causes the pain. Within about 20 minutes the pain was really bad. Fortunately we keep some appropriate injections in the fridge in case the pain returns (anyone can buy the drugs and injections over the counter at any pharmacist) but of course ministering the injections is another matter. Alison called a midwife friend of ours who knows how to give an injection properly. She promptly came and gave me the jab but it took a while to have an effect. In the meantime I went through the usual bouts of wallowing in self-pity and vomiting with pain until the drugs began working.

The result? Nothing! was passed- just a small movement in the kidney by a 5mm stone and that was it- I was in bed for the whole day and achieved nothing. This means that the pain can start again at any time. I've been informed (by those who know better than me) that the pain caused by kidney stones is just as bad as labour pains. The advantage with labour pains however is that it is fairly predicable when the pain will happen, you have something to show for it at the end, and the pain doesn't occur more frequently than every nine months.

Other news. Alison went to Belgium recently to attend a bookkeepers course. She will be keeping the accounts for our company here and so needed to attend a ten-day course. She took Lydia with her. As we were planning for this we realised that there were going to be problems. First, how was Alison going to look after a 10-month-old AND attend the course. Second, how was I going to look after Hannah and Esther AND attend my meetings? Fortunately we have understanding parents who are very willing to help look after our children. Alison's Dad met her in Belgium and took care of Lydia during classes, and my Mum came to take care of Hannah and Esther (and do the washing up, ironing, cleaning, cooking . . . etc.) while I pursued my children's programme.

Whilst in Belgium Alison heard that her grandmother died, she had a stroke last year and had never fully recovered. The funeral service was last Thursday, Alison spent the afternoon in a local cemetery.

My Mum is extending her visit until 19th of December. She's very useful to have around, I guess most guys would welcome a visit from their mothers especially when they bake, cook, iron,
look after the children and baby-sit for free. Hannah and Esther are excited about her staying too.

Currently I'm working out a programme for the beginning of next year. The work is going really well, I've taken many meetings and we have seen many children's lives touched. It is so much better now that I've been freed from part-time computer work. Often it is difficult to keep on thinking of new material for the places I go to on a regular basis but I'm pleased to say that so far I haven't dried up yet!

Today is the first day of the month of Ramadan, which is a sacred month for the majority religion here. I thought that it was a few days from now, but late this afternoon I noticed that there were a lot of bad-tempered people around, and I saw a few intense arguments between drivers on the roads, almost getting to the point of violence. This made me think again, and later I found out that indeed it had started today. The reason for the bad tempers is because most people are fasting between sunrise and sunset- and it is a complete fast without food, water, sex, smoking (strict adherents
won't even swallow saliva) and as a result late in the afternoon a lot of tempers flair up. To get through the day most people will wake up extra early and stuff themselves as much as possible- so you can imagine that in the late afternoon they are also very tired.

Although called a fast, for many people Ramadan is a time of over-indulgence throughout the night. Shops are stocked fully for the month because a lot more food is consumed throughout the fast than any other time of the year. I guess you could almost compare it to the Western Christmas- it has taken on a worldly dimension to what was essentially a time of spiritual contemplation. Many people will become more "religious" throughout this time and start to read the Quoran. The majority religion feels that this time unites them as a people group. For people like me living here the time becomes more of a challenge.

I'll write another update closer to Christmas, as many of you have probably realised, I've resorted to sending out these updates once every month.

Toodle Pip,

Jason, Alison, Hannah, Esther and Lydia

PS Don't forget, these updates and the latest family news can be found on our website:

PPS The attached photo was taken on Alison's birthday, we went to pizza hut as a family treat.


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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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