Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My first encounter with Swedish healthcare

Stadshuset and stadshusetparken in Stockholm  |  My first encounter with Swedish healthcare on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

I finally got around to trying out this whole national healthcare thing when we recently visited R's family's husläkare (general practitioner). Even though we had our annual physicals before leaving New York, I wanted to get an analysis done here sooner rather than later to get ourselves in the system and see if I've been able to improve my Vitamin D levels over the last few months.

The system is very much like the U.S. in most regards. Before visiting a specialist or doing any tests, you see your general practitioner (ours has his office across the street from the city's gorgeous City Hall, pictured above). When we had a chat with him and explained our request all he had to do was order the blood samples and whatnot for us online, which we could stop by to do whenever we wanted.

The co-payment is the same, too. At the end of our visit we each paid 200kr. (~$25), which covered our appointment with him, as well as all the tests we'll have done. I don't know if that also covers the review of our results (I seem to remember having to pay for that in the U.S.), so that's TBD.

But here's where I was surprised: for such a technologically-advanced country (you can buy an apartment and pay your taxes by text message!), we were each handed a little paper booklet where every appointment is logged via a hand-written notation and a stamp to keep track of your co-pays. In the U.S. that's always tracked via your health insurance provider's website.

The tracking ensures that within a 12-month period you never pay more than 900kr. (~$125), which is the maximum you'll be required to pay out of pocket. So as someone that's not currently working and therefore doesn't have insurance through my company (which doesn't exist here anyway), I will never have to pay more than that every 365 days for routine appointments, check-ups and analyses. That too is much different than in the U.S., where the monthly fee pulled directly from your paycheck before it reaches your bank would quickly surpass that, not to mention the addition of any co-pays.

Procedures require payment of course, though I'm not sure how much, but I'm fairly certain it'll be less than in the U.S. (and besides, things like massages and vacations to somewhere sunny can be prescribed and paid for through medical insurance!).

Another difference from the U.S.? Before we left his office our GP handed us each a plastic vial—you collect your own morning samples at home in the comfort of your bathroom and bring it with you to the lab when you have blood drawn. It seems like there would be lots of room for shenanigans with that kind of system, although I suppose if a drug test was needed for work or the military or something of that nature, rather than your own personal knowledge, you'd have to provide your contribution on the spot instead of toting it from home.

Last week we went to a lab (not the doctor's office), showed our ID, handed over our vials, had blood drawn and were back outside within 10 minutes. Another difference (for the better!) from the long periods I was used to spending in waiting rooms in NYC.

One year ago: Autumnal things: walks and more knits
Blogger Tricks

Monday, October 20, 2014

October on Djurgården

Flickorna Helin & Voltaire  |  October on Djurgården on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

I'd had enough of brooding at home, so this weekend I spent an afternoon in the city with my friend Johanna and her darling daughter Selina. First we met at a bookstore where I picked up textbooks for my new Swedish class (more on that soon!) and then we took a long, brisk walk along the waterfront with a view of the harbor and all the boats being readied for their winter hibernation. When we reached the bridge to Djurgården we crossed over and switched from clickety-clacking along the city streets' cobblestones to crunching through the leaves blanketing the park.

Fall splendor  |  October on Djurgården on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Fall colors  |  October on Djurgården on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

There's a windy path from the entrance of the island (which is basically a nature reserve) to the castle-like Helin & Voltaire café where we were headed, which besides being special to R and me, is also quite special to their family, too. All that fresh air, those gorgeous colors and watching Selina playing her role of an autumnal sprite perfectly—running down the paths, picking up leaves, dancing under trees—was enough to make anyone suffering from even the slightest bit of seasonal blues feel lighthearted. Just look at her joy!

Selina  |  October on Djurgården on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Selina  |  October on Djurgården on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Selina  |  October on Djurgården on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Selina  |  October on Djurgården on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

We soon came upon the ever charming Helin & Voltaire, a place I've now visited in three out of the four seasons: in winter dusted with snow, on a drizzly spring day when the colors were unbelievably vibrant, and now in the fall with blazes of orange all around. I'll have to make sure to pop over next summer to finally enjoy (iced?) coffee and a baked treat on the terrace to complete the cycle.

Inside we indulged in coffee (for the ladies), fresh-pressed orange juice (for the little lady), blueberry pie with vanilla sauce, a macaroon, and two bewitching little chokladbiskvier (almond flour cookies dipped in chocolate) while we had a good, long catch-up.

Then we headed back out where I snapped a few pictures of this loving mama-daughter duo—their tender bond is too beautiful of a thing not to capture.

Johanna & Selina  |  October on Djurgården on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Johanna & Selina  |  October on Djurgården on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Johanna & Selina  |  October on Djurgården on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

I snuck in a picture of us two, too. When we first met up earlier in the day my heart got all gooey and melty when I saw Selina was wearing something familiar on her little hands and her preciousness as she ran to a flowering bush to pick flowers for her mama and papa was too much for me to resist grabbing her for a squeeze and a smile.

J. & Selina |  October on Djurgården on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

One year ago: A wee shuffle

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera

Vejer de la Frontera Pubelo Blanco  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

(In the homestretch now with just a few more posts from Spain!)

Before heading to Medina-Sidonia for an after-dinner walk (and delicious alfajores), we had to actually have dinner first. In Andalucía the pretty roads makes a multi-stop evening a joy, rather than overwhelming or tedious, so after a day relaxing by the pool we left Conil de la Frontera late in the afternoon and drove up the hillsides to Vejer de la Frontera first, a town I had picked purely for its pretty name—and because I read it was surrounded by orange groves.

(Another thing that makes driving around Andalucía so enjoyable is that every so often you'll see a looming wooden bull figurine towering over the highway and the fields where actual cows and bulls are grazing. While we weren't technically following the Ruta del Toro (the bull route), it was always amusing to see his proud silhouette.)

Ruta del Toro in Andalucía  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
View from Vejer de la Frontera  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Vejer de la Frontera hillside  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

We arrived in Vejer de la Frontera and parked alongside the town's stone railing with a view overlooking the valley. Everything from the graphite and alabaster tiled sidewalk and wrought iron street lamps to the white buildings of the pueblo blanco tumbling down the hillside amidst orchards was completely, if not over-the-top, charming.

When we actually entered the town's winding and climbing streets hunting for El Central, a restaurant I found on Google Maps a few minutes prior while in the car, we realized there was even more charm within the town's walls. I was enamored at first glance with the restaurant's picturesque setup down a flight of stairs and between whitewashed buildings with pots of geraniums and bougainvillea spilling over from the balconies above, but R went down to check its menu first before he was sold on it: Alhambra beer, check. Grilled octopus, check. Let's eat!

Vejer de la Frontera  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
El Central Vejer de la Frontera  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
El Central Vejer de la Frontera  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

After diner we wandered around town and happened upon a tiled fountain in the Plaza de España. It was beautifully Moorish with vibrantly-hued tiles and a circle of palm trees guarding its tinkly waterworks. After a little pause there we kept wandering and eventually found Jesus. What we did not find was the car.

Somehow we ended up on the complete opposite side of town (I think), and turning on our little Wi-Fi router for GPS access was not one bit of help what with all the higgledy-piggledy streets, but luckily as we had already eaten the hangries didn't rear their head so we enjoyed the hike (mostly).

Plaza de España  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Plaza de España  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Jesus  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
View from Vejer de la Frontera  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Once back in the car we set off for Medina-Sidonia and our hard-earned pastries.

Other Andalucía posts:
After 9 years, 9 days in southern Spain
Postcard from Andalucía
Postcard from Andalucía: Málaga 
Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra
Postcard from Andalucía: Nerja + Marbella
Postcard from Andalucía: Gibraltar + Tarifa
Postcard from Andalucía: Conil de la Frontera
Postcard from Andalucía: Cadíz + Medina-Sidonia