The Big Trip

Day Two in Bergen, Norway

The next morning began normally enough. We rose early and casually prepared for the day. In the common room we talked some more with the French family before they headed out and homeward. Other guests began wandering from the bunkroom, heading for WCs (a.k.a toilets), showers, or the kitchen to make breakfast. Robin and I were both feeling rough - jet lag perhaps - so we decided to find a cafe and grab a cup of coffee and a pastry. We hadn't yet discovered the mythological status of Norwegian coffee consumption: we were expecting to find abundant coffee somewhere in town.

The myth would live on another day, as it turned out. We barely made it to the mall when another kidney stone attack struck me. I staggered back to the hostel where my medication was, Robin stoically at my side. We hoped the drug would be as magically effective here as it was in the Reykjavik hospital, but it was not to be. Taken intravenously, its effects were nearly instantaneous, and powerful. Taken otherwise - we won't go into detail here! - it took awhile to have any noticeable influence. Even then, its effect was only to make what had been overwhelmingly excruciating, barely bearable. I was disappointed, but far too busy tolerating pain to dwell on my disappointment. Ra on the other hand, was well enough to deal with that side of the problem. At this point, I wasn't going to let it stop our trip anymore. If I was unwell, then so be it, but Ra would continue doing the things we planned as best she could. She had planned to take a guided tour of Bergen, and we determined she should go.

Tapestry Robin saw on the tour
The hostel kicks everyone out between 11am and 3pm for cleaning, but I was in no condition to vamoosh. We told the new kids our problem and they agreed to let me stay in bed for the duration. We also were supposed to pick up our rental car before noon, so we had to call and postpone that task. Once that was done, Robin kissed me good-bye and headed out, reluctant but firmly committed to doing the most she could in the next four hours.

I had to wait six hours between doses of my power meds, so after the ten o'clock dosage there was nothing for it but to deal with pain until two. I lay abed in misery while the young people worked around me. One sweet girl came to my bedside and prayed for me during this time. I was in too much pain to ask her name or thank her at the time, but it did a world of good knowing someone would be kind enough to do that beside a moaning, miserable stranger.

The Famous Bergen Fish Market: Torget

I've since spoken with two mothers who had kidney stones, and their unanimous assessment is that kidney stones are worse than childbirth. One exclaimed, "I'd rather have a baby ELEPHANT than kidney stones!" For those who haven't had the pleasure, this puts it in perspective. I'm not immune to pain, but I have a fair tolerance for it. These attacks flew far past that threshold. I was unable to concentrate on anything else. I soon relished not the lack of extreme pain but the diminishment of the worst spasms, using what little time there was between them to prepare mentally for the next. Imagine every internal organ between belly button and thighs being squeezed in a mop-wringer, with regular cycles of increased pressure: this approximates the sensation. Once again, I wasn't certain I would survive, but this time I was not going to a hospital, regardless! If Ra was left alone with a corpse in Norway, we had both decided this was better than giving up and going home.

Narrow Alley in Bergen Meanwhile, Robin joined an organized tour of Bergen. She learned about the Hanseatic League, particularly of course, its affairs here and throughout Norway. She walked through the historic Bryggen area, down its many narrow alleys overhung by the balconies of their surrounding buildings, taking pictures in my stead. While she did her best to enjoy this outing, her mind was on other things, namely of course, her husband's health. As a result, she wasn't able to enjoy this day fully. Everything seemed tainted by my condition: we both wondered what would become of the remaining two weeks if I continued having these attacks.

For me, two o'clock rolled round - drugs! - then three, and Ra returned. The attack wasn't over, but by this time the pain had subsided enough that I felt I could manage getting out of bed. Inactivity was almost as troublesome as the pain: here I was in NORWAY for crying out loud, lying in bed the whole time! The drugs were doing their best just then, so we decided to risk the walk across town to pick up our rental car.

It was arduous. I had to estimate distance between spasms, so I wouldn't be in the middle of a street when one came along. During the worst, I would have to stop, squat, even lie down while it peaked and passed. All this time, the weather was classic Bergen: bits of sunshine between showers, so we spent quite awhile ducking into doorways or under awnings whenever I had a bad attack. We walked about a mile to our car rental establishment and drove the vehicle back to the hostel, then walked to the Torget for dinner. Robin had a huge fish fry that she said was exquisite; I was in no condition for dining. Her face shows the strain of that day, especially when compared to later portraits.

Not-So-Happy Robin

By eight, I was desperate for more drugs - leaving very few dosages left for the rest of the trip. Bedtime arrived; Robin took the middle bunk, I huddled in the lower bed, striving to be quiet. Around me, thirty other people gradually fell asleep, one after another. I don't know how long I lay there in pain, only that finally, weariness overcame the kidney stone attacks and I fell asleep. It really looked like our visit might get cut short. Robin was still missing her luggage. I was still suffering terribly. It was obvious we would have to change several plans, as I was in no shape to do some of the strenuous activities we had planned.

We had stuck it out this day, though; managing to tour a fair piece of Bergen, get our car, and prepare for the next day as well. It hadn't been easy, it certainly hadn't been what we dreamed of, but still, we were here in Bergen, Norway, enjoying as best we could a foreign city full of friendly people, almost all of whom spoke excellent English.

If by now you're getting tired of reading about kidney stone attacks, the good news is this day marked their end. We wouldn't have any assurance of it for a couple days, but this was to be my last attack during the trip. From here on out, we gradually began to enjoy things fully. Fortunately, both of us returned to Bergen - albeit separately - to enjoy the city without suffering pain and stress. But we're getting ahead of our story....

Next Installment: Into the Hinterlands on our Norway Road Trip.

Bergen Buildings