Posted by: kcnafrica | May 1, 2011

Consider the Cost

There’s a Bible verse (Luke 14:28) which says: But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?

I have realized in the LOCAC that this counting the cost can easily apply to having children, if the mother has a career.

OK, sure, in most places in the world, a woman’s life changes (sometimes drastically) after she has a child. Many feel that children are the woman’s primary responsibility, regardless of what the man has (or has not) on his plate. Not here to argue for or against that notion.

But children can become an issue to a working mom who wants to return to work because, by and large, daycare is not so easy to find. The big town closest to us (Bienne) has 48,735 inhabitants (and this doesn’t consider the small hamlets like ours who would use the services in the big town because there aren’t any in our hamlets). So I think we can safely put the number at 50,000.

There are 10 state-run daycares (SRD) in Bienne. I have been told, by people who were not exaggerating, that the minute a woman confirms her pregnancy, she puts her name on a wait-list for daycare because it can take a year or more to get a place. Preference is given to single moms (at least !) and families who already have a child in that particular daycare. At SRD, the amount charged is based on your salary, which I thought was a progressive idea (well, at least for those who are on the lower end of the salary scale).

For the unfortunate ones who don’t get into SRD by the time the four months of paid maternity leave comes to an end, you can put Junior or Princess in a private daycare (which can easily run $1500-$2000/month) or go to a maman du jour (a mom for the day), which seems roughly equivalent to the home daycares in the U.S. Mamans du jour are paid at an hourly rate, which I’m sure can add up.

You can’t even breathe a sigh of relief once your child reaches school age. There are no cafeterias in Swiss schools, because children go home for lunch. So even if you’re back to work, you’d still have to pay someone to pick up/feed your bundle of joy.

Many of the expatriates I’ve met here 1) can’t believe this system in a Western country and 2) wonder if all this is meant to keep the woman in the home. I have even been told that your tax bracket raises if there are two incomes, regardless of how much is made.

To be fair, the LOCAC is one of the few places I’ve lived where there is a tiered level of working, to where you could have a 50% or 70% job and still make enough of a living to actually live.

Statistics show that many European countries are having negative birth rates, meaning the rate of births is not keeping pace with the number of deaths. This causes economic issues for any country. In the case of couples in the LOCAC, I can understand why.

because a reflective heart does good,

Posted by: kcnafrica | April 27, 2011

A Lesson from HRH

As is the case with many children, HRH had a fear of vacuum cleaner. Whenever I needed to clean up, MHH would take him out of the house. A few months ago, we got a new vacuum. It has various speeds and the slower speeds are quieter.

So MHH is away on a business trip and I had to clean. I spent some time prepping HRH about my coming plans to vacuum.

And then I turned the vacuum on.

His face did the pre-break-down-to-crying thing. At the same time, I could see something rise in him to resist the fear. That “something” won the battle and I praised HRH profusely.

Since that day, he has not been afraid of the vacuum. In fact, now when I pull out the vacuum, he comes up and stands there. If I let go of the hose (to move a piece of furniture or something), he takes the hose and holds it to his mouth. I guess that’s his way of making sense of it.

I’m a bit jealous of HRH.

Because some of my long-standing fears are still clinging to me like smoke in a bar.

Why can’t I take my fears in hand like HRH now takes the vacuum hose?

Is it because they’ve been around so long they are almost friends? Is it because I’m really not all that bothered by them so I don’t just kick them to the curb? Is it because I don’t believe the Power within me is greater than the fears?

I really don’t know.

But I am learning. From an 18-month old.

And I’m ready to pick up the hose.

because a courageous heart does good,

Posted by: kcnafrica | April 18, 2011

The Lord’s Need

And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’” (Luke 19:31)

I’ve read this part of the Bible many times before, but yesterday when I heard these words, they struck me in a different way. The situation is that Jesus is telling some disciples to go into a particular town and they’d see a donkey tied to a post and that they should just take it and bring it to Him, as He needed it to enter Jerusalem.

Of course, the disciples were asked why they were taking the donkey. They said what Jesus had coached them to, and they got what they wanted.

In Bible times, donkeys were beasts of burden and could be double as horses. So giving your donkey to two people you don’t know was not a light thing. Perhaps Jesus had made an arrangement with the donkey’s owner beforehand, in the event that the donkey wasn’t returned. Or maybe the owner just recognized the authority in these disciples, from the word Jesus had told them. Who knows?

What struck me yesterday was the last bit of the quotation above: Because the Lord has need of it.

In my own life, there have been times when the Lord had need of me. Sometimes, I’m like the owner of the donkey, and I immediately give–my time, my talents, my moulah, my…whatever. And those times I smile and sleep easy.

But other times, I’ve just gotten into a discussion on why the Lord should need what I have. And, well, so-and-so has just as much or more than me, so He could surely get what He needed from them. Sometimes, I don’t see what the Lord sees and can’t agree that I even HAVE what He wants, so I’m stressed in thinking, why is He asking THAT of ME?

It would be so nice to be like the owner of the donkey. All the time. (Or at least have a 90% success rate!)

So why can’t I?

Well, I could. But it would take giving up:my schedule/to-do list for that day (maybe EVERY day). My pride. My insecurities. My surliness. My…fill-in-the-blank.

But at the core of me, I really do wanna be like the owner of the donkey.

So I press on.

because a seeking heart does good,

Posted by: kcnafrica | April 10, 2011

Garfield and Me

To those who remember that orange, fat cat, what was one of his most common thoughts? I hate Mondays.

Well, I’m finding myself more like Garfield each week.

For me, it’s not because of work. My present job is the most stress-free I’ve ever had. And working from home has its benefits.

No, I have grown to hate Mondays because Monday is wash day. It’s the only day I can rightfully, and guiltlessly, wash my clothes.

First, I should say I’m grateful to be able to wash them once a week. I know many people here in the LOCAC who can only wash every two weeks. Or even worse, I have some friends who can wash this week on Tuesday but in two weeks’ time when it’s their day again, it’s now on Wednesday. Boy, that can really mess up your social schedule. I admire the Swiss for putting up with that.

I usually start washing at 7 a.m., because that’s the earliest I can wash. The sign in the entry says no noise from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. My clothes are sorted on Sunday night, so I get an idea of how many loads I’ll be doing the next day and what temperature the loads need to be.

European machines, on the whole, are different than American ones in that the water is heated inside the machine here. (In the U.S., it usually comes into the machine hot, from a hot water heater.) I find the clothes tend to come out cleaner here if you have four hot loads to do, the water doesn’t go cold by the middle of the second load.

But I had to learn how long it takes for the loads to wash. And boy what a difference the temperature makes! The lowest temperature is 30ºC (86ºF) and that load takes about 30 minutes. Then there’s 40 sport (104ºF), which also takes about 30 minutes. The regular 40 takes 45-50 minutes. The 60ºC (140ºF) takes 75 minutes. The last is a 90ºC (195ºF) but I’ve never used that setting because I just can’t fathom that anything any of us wear needs to be washed at a such a high temperature. I generally only do the clothes for HRH on a 60 temp, to get out any stains.

Generally I do one load on 60 (those for HRH), several loads on regular 40 or 40 sport and one 30 load for the dark colors. It takes me until noon or 1 p.m to finish. And that is if all goes well. The days that I take HRH up and down the three flights of stairs (no elevator) with me or that he doesn’t take a morning nap for a long time, well, that just adds to my washing time.

I do understand that having assigned days insures that at least once a week, the machine is all mine. And that’s not a bad thing. But it would be nice, if I knew that the person who had wash day on Wednesday works outside the home and does not do their clothes until 4 p.m. at the earliest, that I could get a quick load in. But that would require asking the person’s permission and if I did that each week, well, I imagine I could become a pesky neighbor.

So I sigh and think: I hate Mondays!


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