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Social Issues

Norway Street Magazine Seller’s Day


A reporter follows a day in the life of a street magazine seller in Norway, and finds a life of drugs and poverty. But she also finds that Svien is not the stereotype most people associate with streeties and drug users.

Megafon Magazine is sold in Bergen, Norway, and is a member of the INSP.  This story appeared in the August edition.  The translation has been edited slightly.

A completely normal day at work

Friday is a typical day for Svein. He gets up at half-nine. His  first task is to hunt for a “friskmelding”, a shot of heroin.. He gets it in the park in Bergen at 10 o’clock.. Then, he takes it to Bergenshjemmet, a place for the homeless in Bergen, where Svein gets a little breakfast. After breakfast he goes to his room. There he smokes hash before he goes to work selling Megafon.

The time is 11.55:

–I am a little wasted right now, for I have smoked me a fjodde, “said Svein. In other words, hash. Svein does not specifically rapture, and we believe it when he says that he is ready to sell magazines. He has just arrived at work, and starts with 10 Megafon magazines. It’s good weather in Bergen, and he aims to sell magazines on Torgallmenningen, in the middle of the centre.

We are no more than fifty metres from retail outlets in Sverresgate before Svein run into a friend outside the theatre.

– Hello, you want some goods? someone asks. He can provide cocaine, but Svein doesn’t take it.

12.09:

On Torgallmenningen we notice a tattoo on his hand.

– I was a child on the wrong side when I did that. We got it done on the spur of the moment I ended up in an institution, he explains unsolicited.

Svein was placed in child care at the age of two years. His father picked him instantly out again, and he lived with his father until he was 7 years. Then he moved back and forth between his father, mother and aunt until he again ended up on the institution. When he was 10 years old he tried hash for the first time, along with some older children, for a laugh. From when he was 15 years old he began to really rapture on the drugs. He was moved around the country. Oslo, Te Kaha, Øygarden, Moss, and Bergen are a few of the places where Svein visited

– I can not remember all the places.

It  is no more than two minutes before Svein is impatient. He has not sold even a leaf, and decides to try his luck in Marken.

12.23:

Now Svein is trying to sell on Torgallmenningen, in Marken, outside the train station and on Bystasjonen. He has not sold a single sheet yet. But most of the time have been helped to go from place to place. Outside the Bystasjonen he hears a laugh as he sits drinking coffee. Svein’s friend offers him a smoke, and they smoke together, “he says no to a second one.

– That was an old friend of mine. We did a lot of drugs on ungdomskolen. He is not dopehead, and I have to take care of the friends I have, “said Svein.

12.54:

Svein has yet to sell a magazine. He has tried dozens of people he has stopped and talked with. They are talking largely about who has the good drugs. One was talking about rusfrihet. Svein had to buy Temgesic pills of him. It is a heroin substitute, like Methadone.

13.05:

Svein has not yet sold a single blade. He is tired, and decides to head home on Bergenshjemmet to eat lunch. He uses twenty minutes there.

– I think it is good to live in Bergenshjemmet, for the flow of drugs in the neighborhood. I get everything I need without having to go in the park, and this is very dangerous. A trip to the park, like I did in the early days, is only in an emergency

– But, it’s really quite meaningless. Social Security pay 12,000 kroner a month for me to live here, in a room the 5-6 feet square. I would rather have an apartment.

We are talking about heroin. Svein began by smoking it, but now only uses a syringe.

– I use the spray because it is what gives effect. I’ve been using heroin so much and long that I no longer receive any special effect from smoking it.

Svein is surprisingly open about his drug use, he says straight out that others in his situation try to hide it, or prefer not to talk about.

– I choose not have to go and hide it. I am who I am. As I see it, it’s not my fault that I have ended up here, it’s my childhood. I have always been completely honest with my parents and with all others. I should really teach myself to keep a little more straight around mom, so she doesn’t worry so.

13.26:

Svein starts to feel bad. He will soon need a hit of “medicine”. He goes back to Torgallmenningen to sell magazines.

– I would like to work with the digging. Dad has worked with the digging, and I have had a desire to follow his footsteps since I was three years.

He says no more about it. We are back at Torgallmenningen. Svein knows that he must obtain money pretty quick now.

14.02:

Svein get today’s first Megafon-sale.

– Now I am going. In general, it is a little slow in the beginning, but stay with it for a little while.

In the course of a half-hour, he sold magazines for 200 kroner. In addition, he received 40 kroner from a laugh (a tip from a customer).

14.40:

Svein has 240 kroner. It is just enough for a bag of heroin, so we have gone back to Bergenshjemmet. Svein intends to buy heroin from someone who lives near him.

– You can not join us in here. If I go in with a reporter and a camera, there will definitely be trouble,”said Svein. We wait outside.
– He had nothing. We have to go to the park. Shit in other words, it’s not often I have to go in the park twice in one day. It’s just an emergency in other words.

15.00:

Svein has begun to sweat a lot, and says that he is starting to go off.

– Are there drugs here? He shouts to people passing by and they shake their heads. There is no one who sells heroin in the park today.

– I don’t know what to do. I’ll walk up and down and see if there’s any to be found.

15.15:

Svein disappear with a friend. They go out of the park. We are given permission to meet him at the Grieghallen. We go down there and wait.

15.30:

Svein comes back. Now he has acquired what he needs, and we are moving towards his room on Bergenshjemmet.

15.40:

– I warn you. This is a real shithole, “says Svein before he unlocks the door to the building where he lives.

We go up a narrow flight of stairs, through a kitchen and into a little room of perhaps six square meters. One bed, a table, two chairs and a shelf can just fit in the room. On the table is an aluminium pot to heat the heroin, a bunch of food from McDonalds that Svein has taken with him when he was the rapture of the pills, and a bloody syringe. On the floor there’s a bucket of water, and a bottle that Svein uses to smoke hash. In the corner is a bloody paper, and an alarm clock ticks. On the shelf stands a cup that Svein has used as ash-tray. On the blank wall hang a single poster. “Sin City” it says on it.

– Just sit down. I guarantee there are no syringes in the chairs.

Svein rolls up both sleeves. He would begin with heroin and a little water. Boiling it up with a lighter.

– Now I will pretend as if you are not here, “said Svein. I nod, and it is completely silent. The alarm clock is ticking loudly, while Svein heats the drugs with a lighter. He fills the syringe, and puts on the tip.

He tries first to set the sprayer on the inside of his arm. There is no vein. He is clearly stressed, and tries to tighten a rope around his arm. He gives up trying to injecting there, and make a new attempt on the outside of the forearm, almost all the way down by his hand. Blood flows into the syringe. Svein forces the heroin out. He finds paper, take out the syringe, wipes the blood and wash it with methylated spirits. Everything takes place clean and tidy. Then he sits on his bed and smokes.

– I am not one so that goes all the way down into the ground. There is currently no buzz, “says Svein after a few minutes. He’s been a little slow, but far from what we associate with heroin users. After even a few minutes he starts to clean up.

– I can smell myself.

Svein has decided not to sweat, he has decided not to stress and smiles

– Everything is much better after I get cleaned up. Success, cramps in the legs are gone, sweat disappears.

16.07:

Svein is on the phone laughing. We’re going over to kompisen to smoke hash, but it is a long way to go.

Svein says more about his childhood, about the institutions he has been in, about the various places he has lived. In contrast to other people in his situation he is not bitter at all. He speaks, laughs and smiles all the time. He calls Bergenshjemmet the “happy”.

– I am happy in my daily life. I have experienced so much grief in life, and when you appreciate the little things. If you can not smile, there is no point getting up in the morning.

17.00:

We go to find Svein’s buddy. We have to go down a small flight of stairs to get to his room. They have bought hash from someone. There is tension, when we join Svein’s buddy in a small bedroom. They take out a hashpipe. His friend has a box with four different types of hash in.

– It’s OK didn’t I tell you this guys OK? He has more than one type of hash here, “said Svein. His friend’s phone rings regularly. People want to buy hash from him. Sometimes he answers the phone, sometimes not.

They use an old and dirty plastic bottle to smoke the drug. They smoke and pass “the stack” between them. The room fills with smoke.

17.20:

His friend,, takes the phone when it rings this time. He asks if we can all go out, and Svein says yes. We’re going to meet someone outside.

They leave, and it turns out that it will be up in the park again. Work is over.

Svein’s working day usually ends at six o’clock. Then he goes back on Bergenshjemmet, sees movies or talks with some of the other residents. He is not sleepy, because it is noisy where he lives

This Friday is perhaps not entirely normal, however. This is in fact the last Friday before Svein goes into rehabilitation. He travels to his mother in the country to keep himself away from trouble in Bergen, and to keep himself clean as long as possible. He has done so with success before, but the relapse has always come.

– The goal now is to keep me clean, and hope I get the chance to get some education. I think I am going to fall back to heroin use, but we never know. I am still young, and anything can happen.

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

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