Sunday, April 30, 2006

Expatriation

Howard is dead. He didn't look well, it must be said.
I saw him slumped unconscious on a plastic white table at a party a year ago and his face was as red as beetroot. Howard's favourite vegetables were chips and tomato ketchup. His daily intake of water was actually over the recommended amount at a healthy two litres. However, when you consider that this water was taken solely to dilute on a 50/50 ratio with the amount of Flash he consumed, the figure is less impressive. At least health-wise.
Flash is the most common, only slightly ironic, euphemism given to the alcoholic tipple of Western expats who reside in gated camps and compounds all over the ostensibly dry outposts of the Muslim world. Actually, it is less a tipple and more pure, distilled alcohol, diluted with water according to personal requirements in order to decrease its toxicity. I have heard that some of the expats develop such a taste for it that they even make and drink it back home. Which is behaviour which must be something akin to the psychotic-depressive institutionalization of the mind. Or something like that. It is a bit like the cartoon Eskimo who shunts your offer of a cosy, heated and duveted bedroom in order to try and squeeze himself into your freezer. And you can sort of understand it when you have cooked a gourmet meal for the visiting exchange programme Kalahari bushman when he pushes it aside and instead skewers your kids' pet guinea pig on an open flame in the garden.
But while to drink Flash in any circumstances is an act of pitiful self-destruction, unless you are a tractor, to drink it out of choice can only be described as a psychiatric disorder. But Howard will be missed. By some. I will not be a hypocrite. From what I knew of him, he could be a most unpleasant man. But when you looked past his violently xenophobic air of obnoxious righteousness, which really only flared up when he was drunk, albeit very often, he could be a kind man. His xenophobia and racism were in fact, like the best xenophobia and racism, genuinely rooted in a misguided, mythical love of his own race.
Howard was part of the old school, Libyan expat brigade, who descended on Libya during the first oil boom in the 1960s. Most deserted the desert when the Lockerbie sanctions kicked in and some are now returning. But, Howard, one of the ones who was born to live and die as expats, never left. Until now.
Unsurprisingly, for almost all the Western expats I have met in Libya, money is the major motivating factor. For most, there is no dark subtext. But sometimes expatriation is a response to familial breakdown and sometimes can be the cause of it. Constant dark rumours flutter around the compound like bats at dusk of his wife and girlfriend back in Britain, who know nothing of each other or his goings on in Tripoli. Her credit card addiction. His time spend inside. The spats are almost comically endless. At one point four people who live on the same street on my compound were all not speaking to each other for different reasons and each was defensively proclaiming that they could not have wished for a more satisfactory situation. And these are not long streets. Indeed, it can be so exhaustively time-consuming to charter the poisoned diplomatic waters of the expat scene that I have found that the best course of action is to abstain from forming part of the entire movement. Or at least, if one must be on the stage, then to be placed at the wings, as far away as possible when the drama explodes and so much closer to the exit.
At some of the expat gatherings I have been to, it has been obvious that the people assembled had nothing in common with each other but had to force themselves through the grinder of social interaction with each other because of their shared expat identity and the fact that they had no particular reason not to speak to each other. And there we, the rent-a-crowd, socialised so difficultly, like floating pieces of driftwood, gathered together on the bonfire of social interaction and doused in spirit and light in the hope of generating some warmth of human interaction. The spirit usually does the trick.
I have sometimes received invitations to parties which were extended to anyone else I wished to ask, just as long as there were "no Libyans." Yes, in their views, some of expats can be the most depressing people you will ever meet but sometimes this is less of a standard racist knee-jerk than a discomfort at the idea of drinking alcohol in front of Libyans. Who also drink in large numbers, but feel uncomfortable about doing it in front of expats. Like an alcoholic couple who both drink in secret and can not look each other in the bleary eyes. Although I think I know whose eyes are blearier.
While the authorities normally turn a blind eye to expat alcohol consumption, this is not always the case. Earlier this year, two expats were imprisoned after a group grape-treading session in the garden of a villa in Janzour, a suburb of Tripoli, was witnessed by Libyan neighbours. They were reported and the villa was raided, uncovering hundreds of litres of red wine. Both were released on bail. The last I heard, one of them was granted an emergency visa to return home to Britain and of course will never be seen on these shores again. I think he is in Kuwait, hopefully a little wiser and treading his grapes indoors from now on.
Of course there are the toga parties, the fancy dress, the quiz nights and fun runs where new runners are initiated by being made to drink home-made beer out of their shoes. Fun for some, fine for some, but sadly this pre-packaged group merriment is just not in my heart. I do not look down on it. It is just not in my heart. Well, I do look down on it. But because it is not in my heart. I suppose we must all machete our way through the jungle of expat life in the way we know best.
A few expats are just looking to flee unhappiness, often attempted fugitives from a misery they can not escape because they have misdiagnosed its causes as being in their environment when it is actually inside them. It can indeed be hard to distinguish between someone who is truly unhappy because of the world around him and one who is truly unhappy and merely blames the world around him for it. Sometimes it comes back to alcohol. A few are naive enough to land in Libya in the belief that an officially dry Muslim state will be a perfect place for alcohol detoxification. I had a work colleague who came under ths mistaken belief and promptly went AWOL and could not be roused from his flat for days on end, always returning foul-breathed and red-eyed with the sheepish claim that he was suffering from a migraine so intense that he couldn't answer the door.
The sad fact is that those who drink in their own countries do not drink less in a Muslim state, but more. I heard of one person who went to Saudi a moderate, social drinker and returned to Britain a year later a raving alcoholic.
Personally, I have found some solace in exercise, the unusual pratice of interacting with Libyan locals and the companionship of a handful of other non-scene expats. Therein lies the problem with the whole expat scene paradigm. Everyone speaks scornfully of the "expat scene" just in the same way that journalists who are mass-doorstepping some hapless politician or celebrity objectively report that they have discovered the presence of a "media circus", as if they themselves were not part of it. Why is it always someone else who is part of the expat scene? Why is it always, always 'someone else'?
But this is all really just the tittle tattle of the desk-bound, town-based expats. Then there are permanent expats, the rotationers, the riggers and the desert trash, the rugged, lifelong brigade. Although Howard had worked in the town in recent years, he was a desert expat at heart. They spend half their lives in the desert, in places where there are no women for hundreds of miles, although they have committed no crime. No wives, no daughters.
So what future for them, these men? Due to the government's policy of Libyianisation, their numbers fall every year, as technical field positions are increasingly being given to Libyan nationals. Some retire, some seek work elsewhere, in Russia or the North Sea. Some will continue to lead a Quixotic life of retreating behind ever-bigger satellite dishes and bolstering bank accounts, just to drink themselves to death for the grace to be buried in a golden, velvet-lined coffin, draped in the flag of a homeland which they both loved with every beat of their hearts and simultaneously could or would not live in permanently.
For one, I salute them, these misguided, dwindling, romantic, sun burnt, confused, sometimes bigoted and sometimes maddened few. But I will not join them. As a wise man, a man of many stories, took me aside and told me on my first day at the company: "You're young. Spend a couple of years here. Get some experience here and then move on. I've been here 29 years, it's too late for me now. But you can just leave. Don't get stuck here."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Basim and Ali

Before I knew exactly who or what human beings were and before I had mastered the cognitive skills needed to differentiate between personalities and even genders, estimate ages and judge characters I remember the warm nicotine-scented breath and the bristles of a cheek brushing against my face of a man bending down to hug me as I lay on a bed or maybe even a cot. My since errant, absent father perhaps? Another relative? I don't know who it was. But I think that it was a man like Basim. A large, bearded grizzly bear of a man, Basim is nominally the cleaner at work, but in reality he is a sort of general gopher, no-fixed-job-description, maintenance man, odd-jobber and donkey/dirty worker. Basim is a contract worker, not a direct employee of the company and is therefore not issued with the standard company coveralls and safety boots which normal employees, including desk-bound ones, get. Someone once gave him a green company boiler suit and, though now oil-stained and tattered, it is his uniform to work, though in theory he could wear anything he wanted to. Basim works every day of the week, from 7.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. and is paid 6 dinars (about 4 euros) a day.On a normal day, Basim can be seen pruning roses, hosing the ground to keep the dust down, carrying desks on his back, distributing office stationery with a wheelbarrow, emptying the bins, cutting down poles with grinders and spraying the offices with air-freshener at the precise moment that people are getting their sandwiches out for the lunch break. Although only 24, Basim's teeth are a muddy brown on account of the five spoons of sugar that he shovels into his coffee. Like many Libyans, he uses a tablespoon for putting the sugar into the cup but then finds that this spoon will not fit into the cup and has to use a teaspoon for stirring. Maybe this is where he gets his energy, his carbonated enthusiasm, his sunshine smile that seems to suggest that he has been somewhere no-one else has been and seen what no other eyes have seen. Basim is always in a good mood. If you cross his path 15 times a day, he will stop and say hello and, if he is carrying anything, put it down and slap you on the back all 15 times. Basim once tried to hold hands me with as we walked across the hard, the way Arab men often do. I didn't want to be culturally insensitive but that was just one bridge too unbearable to cross. I think he understood.
I once told Basim that a taxi-driver had overcharged me, and Basim earnestly described to me in detail how much the taxi-driver was going to suffer in hell for what he had done. Any conversation with Basim, and indeed any conversation in Libya can quickly take on a theological hue. In the little English that he is keen to practise, Basim told me that while the Prophet Mohammed was unquestionably his "number one", the Leader of the Revolution, Muamar Ghadaffi was equally undoubtedly his "number two." These are perpetually the two positions in Basim's league table. Others may concur, but certainly not everyone does. Ali definitely does not.
Ali is unusual in that he sometimes tells me that he wishes that America would invade his country. While everyone in Libya I have spoken to is vehemently opposed to the Iraq war, Ali says that if the Americans came they would sort the country out. Ali works in the office and has that universal, crushed, slumped demeanour of the disgruntled office worker. The company sent Ali to Britain to do his MA and he bought a Toyota SUV with the expense money that he saved up. But now, with the trip behind him, he has nothing to look forward to. He hates the work, he hates all the bosses and he also hates Basim, though I don't think Basim realises it. Misery loves company and hates anyone who has what it can't have. I think Ali feels that Basim's mood reflects badly on him. Ali certainly resents the way that Basim feels comfortable in just taking a seat in the office and starting to banter and chat when it takes his fancy. He feels that it is not Basim's place and though not openly hostile towards him, he sometimes just ignores him and glowers behind his computer. It confuses Basim that there is somewhere which will not take his charm as a substitute for genuine authority, but if it bothers him then he certainly doesn't let is show.
But more than Basim, Ali is unhappy with how little he is paid. He does two jobs and probably takes home four times as much as Basim a month but this is still not enough to sustain the lifestyle that he aspires to. In a socialist system of government like Libya has, there are undoubtedly some workers who secretly enjoy the fact that their mediocrity will go undetected, that their own inefficiencies will be drowned out by the wider inefficiencies of the system. But Ali is the other type, the one who is frustrated that his perceived talent and superior ability will never be rewarded.
For Basim, I think that within the context of his religious faith, the lack of financial reward does not trouble him greatly. For now, at least. I have no doubt that Basim will make an excellent father one day. With his broad shoulders, love of football and his knowledge of poisonous snakes, one day he will make an excellent playground boast, a lunch-break threat of reprisal.
But Basim is not a father yet. Ali is, though he only gets to see his year-old daughter when he gets home at 8 o'clock in the evening. Ali was hoping that when his wife gave birth in Britain, it might give him a legal right to stay there, but it didn't work out that way. Sometimes Ali's moods are so dark that I really think that he might sliding into serious depression. On some days, all he seems to do is sit there and sigh deeply. I try to talk to him about it, or at least to change the subject. Once I tried talking to him about music and he smiled when he recalled how he used to play the guitar in a band when he was at school. "We were going to play a concert, but it got cancelled, because someone at the top didn't like music," he said and his face reverted back to its defeated frown. Admittedly, among the songs they were going to play were Iron Maiden's "666 - The Number of the Beast" but I don't think that the concert was cancelled because of satanic lyrical content but because of a deeper religious objection to any type of music. This incident seems to sum Ali up. He tried, but they wouldn't let him, so he won't try any more. There isn't really much I can do. I just hope that Ali's situation, or at least his outlook improves before his daughter gets much older. The Americans aren't coming to invade and as I know, children can pick up on these things way before they learn to speak.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The River of Dreams

Geological surveys in the 1970s confirmed that there was more than 120,000 cubic kilometres of pure fresh water lying under the sand of the Libyan Desert. In an extraordinary session of the General People's Congress in October 1983, the leader of the Revolution suggested transporting this water to Libya's coastal towns and thus started the Great Man Made River Project, the "8th wonder of the world", an engineering project on a scale never seen before in human history.
The pipes, the largest ever made, dwarf the transporters they are carried on and the pre-stressed steel in their manufacture would circle the earth 280 times. The quantity of aggregates used in the construction of the project would build 20 pyramids the size of the Great Pyramid of Khofu and the pipe transporters will have travelled a distance equivalent to going to the sun and back when the final phase of the project has been completed. It is envisaged that the 13000 wells that have been drilled will pump 6.5 million cubic metres of water per day. While Tripoli and Benghazi, and most of the west of the country are presently served by the Great Man Made River Project, when it is finally completed, it will deliver water to the entire Libyan nation.
The water has been beneath the Libyan Desert for between 14,000 and 38,000 years but at the car park at work, Fawzi just sprays it onto the gravel to keep the dust down. Sometimes he leaves the hosepipe on and goes away and the ground turns to white mud and the water trickles out of the gate and starts to fill the potholes in the road. A road that is strewn with cans and old tyres and empty plastic bottles of mineral water.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Third Nalut Cultural and Tourism Festival

Of course, not all Libyans are Arabs. In the south, there are the nomadic Tuareg and the Toubou, who trudge the Saharan plains, often roaming past resented borders into Niger, Algeria and Chad. But small in number, these tribes forge their own path outside the mainstream of Libyan society. Then there are the Berber. Popularly known as Berber, though they prefer the term Amazigh to Berber, which is after all a Latin derivation of barbari, they predate the Arab settlers and their modern day population is spread across Northern Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. Some estimate that the Berber make up as much as five per cent of the Libyan population. Precise figures are impossible. Some are not even sure themselves. Last weekend, Mohammed took me to Nalut for the festival. Mohammed's parents are Berber and I asked him if he was also a Berber. He said that he didn't speak the language and that he identified more with being an Arab, having been schooled in Arabic, though he quickly added that he was proud to be a Berber as well. If that is allowed.
Of course, it has always been allowed to be a Berber, though it has not always been permitted to be too vocal about being one. The first Nalut Cultural and Tourism Festival took place in 1975 in the eponymous mountain town perched in the rocky hills of the Jebel Nafuza, the heartland of Berber Libya. The 1976 festival never took place. Hardliners in the revolutionary government fearful that the festival might prove a covert breeding ground for Berber nationalism pulled the plug and it was not until 2005 that the second festival took place. "Finally, the bastards let us have our festival", as a Nalut inhabitant told me bitterly. "We never wanted a country, or even a flag. We only want to celebrate our culture, to let our children see how their grandparents lived." The gulf between how the young people of Nalut live and their grandparents' lifestyles is indeed great. In the two generations between the camel and the Toyota pick-up truck, things have changed almost beyond recognition for the Berbers, just as they have changed for all Libyans.
In Nalut, an imposing qasr, or castle, perched on top of the mountain used to serve as a store for grain, with the town inhabitants' chambers of sizes directly proportional to their wealth. Ingeniously ventilated, it is not hard to imagine how the cold winds must blow through the holes in the chamber walls on winter nights. Of course, the rocky chambers are now empty, but in days gone by, this was the town's bank vault, with its entrance on the top of sheer rock face in order to seriously restrict access by getaway camel for any would-be qasr robbers. When we got there for the festival, the qasr was mobbed with crowd. There were camel trains, wedding party re-enactments, mock circumcision ceremonies, veiled women weaving lambs wool blankets. They said that it takes four of them a month to finish one, which they then sell for 200 dinars. I asked Mohammed about the meagre economic gains and he shrugged and said that it was better than earning nothing, which is what they would get otherwise. "It gives them something to do", he added.
Elsewhere, there were stands selling ornaments carved out of palm wood and Tuareg had come to town to sell garishly coloured artifacts. I bought a leather mobile phone holder with the letters NOKIA stitched into it. Written proof, if any were needed, of the ceaseless march of globalization. All it needs is for some humourless lawyer to sue the beleaguered Tuareg for this copyright infringement and it will really feel like 2006.
In another part of Nalut, caves which once served troglodyte granaries and living quarters were converted into exhibition rooms for dinosaur bones, fossils, local pottery, glass-caged scorpions, iguanas, Berber furniture and assorted artifacts. And then there was the traditional Berber food, like bazin, a popular one with all Libyans, made of unleavened barley to look like mud but taste so much worse. Bseesa, a sickly sweet paste made from crushed seeds. Samel, something like ghee and not trying to hide the fact that it is in fact 100% saturated fat. The festival of Nalut should never have been stopped, but whoever is making this food should be tried for crimes against humanity.
But there was a rare generosity about the people of Nalut which I suppose will be diluted when or if the Libyan tourist industry expands. When we arrived, a friend of Mohammed's unhesitatingly handed over the keys to his house to us and went to stay with his mother and his wife went to stay with hers. As we toured the festival, curiosity seekers joined our entourage one by one and I found the camcorders and mobile phone cameras were being pointed at me. Next, a local television crew approached for an interview. There was no doubt about it. I had become part of the show.
At the evening concert in the main square, we were embarrassingly ushered into front row seats, against a backdrop of a fifty foot high painting of the leader. This is not the place for the faint-hearted or for the more fundamentalist elements, many of whom would have objected to the musical content anyway. Coming as it did, just days before the festival of Milud, Mohammed's birthday, when it is traditional to celebrate through the medium of fireworks, the boys are packing a seemingly endless supply of gunpowder. The way to dance here is to wave and flap your arms as if you are imitating a bird or as if you arms are two wet fish. The feet do not move much and many people can't move their feet anyway because they are standing on plastic chairs which they have stacked up on top of each other to get a better view. Some people go to dance at the front of the stage, in front of the row of VIPs, which the security do not like. An impromptu competition to see who the unlikeliest dancer is emerges. First, the old man, about 80, is pushed to the front of the stage, where he shuffles from one foot to another with soft abandon. Then two children, about five and six, not dissimilar to the old man, but somehow more self-conscious, with their eyes desperately checking for paternal approval like searchlights. Lastly, the man with the crutch, who caps this display of physical comedy by taking it to its natural conclusion and falling over. A belly dancer emerges onto the stage and the acrid smoke which has been going all night intensifies as all the little bangs seem to merge into one long bang. The only woman here, she is a magnet for the eyes of a thousand young men with the heat of 10,000 fireworks in their pockets. One behind me shows his appreciation with a short burst from a make-shift flame-thrower fashioned from a cigarette lighter and a can of fly-spray, though he is quickly disarmed by the security.
There was one image of Nalut which has burned into my subconscious like a cigarette. Outside the granaries, in the glare of the sun, where a three piece Tunisian band beat out a hypnotic rhythm and their dancer gyrated with a pot on fire on his head, there were photos of more recent Nalut history. Fading photos of young men in camouflage fatigues, with Kalashnikovs strapped around them. There was a particular photo of one with an enormous Afro and a massive grin as he posed on a rocky hillside somewhere. The hairstyle reminded me of someone I used to know somewhere, but I can't quite place. These were the photos of the ones who went to fight the Israelis in the 1970s and never came home. There is a sad little irony at play. While the minority Berber people were struggling to find their voice in Arab Libya, Nalut men were fighting for an Arab minority in Palestine. So what were these men, barely out of childhood, when they died so many miles from home? Were they Berbers? Arabs? Libyans? Maybe Muslim more than anything else. How did it all fit in? I didn't like to ask Mohammed as it is a sensitive subject and after all, he probably wouldn't know. Perhaps it was only the people in the photos who could have told me anyway.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Burglars' Market

Though it only lasts for the few hours leading up to prayer time on Friday afternoon, the Friday Market makes up in scale what it lacks in opening hours. It is a market of such magnitude that it even has a part of Tripoli, aptly Friday Market (Souk il-Gima), named after it. It is a market which snakes its way through two kilometres of massed bodies poring through clothes, fake DVDs, alarms clocks, car accessories, fruit and vegetables, goats and camels. There is in fact very little that you can not buy at the Friday Market. It is good market, but not my favourite.
Also open on Friday mornings is the teeming Fish Market, which is in the harbour by the light-house, just across the road from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius. Perhaps it is because of the crush that women do not attend most markets in Libya, though you see plenty of them actually inside the Medina. At the Fish Market, there is so little space between the stalls that at one point, shambling through it absent-mindedly, I found myself surrounded by fish on every side. I steeled myself and prepared to eat my way out through a pile of octopi, when a Libyan stall-owner came to my rescue. Again, this is a fine market, but not my favourite. I am not that keen on fish. Too many bones.
Moving further down the port, in the open air, there is a pet market, although there are only three types of pets available here. There are fish, birds and dogs. For fish, read goldfish, for birds, doves, budgies and parrots and for dogs, Alsatians. In truth, this is an Alsatian market more than anything. What is the relationship between Libyan men and Alsatians? The bond is a string one, though I think they use them more as guard dogs than as pets. When I told Bashir that it was quite common for people to let their dogs sleep on their beds with them, he thought that it was a deranged, bestial idea. Libyans may not allow dogs onto their beds but there they stand, keenly admiring each other's Alsatians, some on leads, others chained to the wheels of cars or kept inside the cars for viewing. A hundred Alsatians of different sizes, though roughly the same shape. For the connoisseur of Alsatians, this is heaven on gravel. To me, they all look the same.
Then, just up the road, there is the Burglars' Market, stuck in the moonlight between the walls of the crumbling grandeur of the Medina and the Bab Al-Africa Corinthia, Tripoli's only 5 star hotel.
The Burglars' Market, just like burglars, only comes out at night. Despite the name, most of the people with their pitches on the ground here look like they can have burgled no more than the dustbins of not particularly wasteful individuals. The Burglars' Market is a testament to hope and a poem of desperation. It is where the things that no-one wants any more are finally washed up. Indeed some of the stuff here is of negative ownership value. Twisted padlock keys without the padlock? One arm of a chair? A scissor? Not a pair of scissors, just one. Half a can opener. So maybe you buy the scissor and the half a can opener and you have a scissor opener. Maybe not. Some pieces of junk which started high up on the possession chain, like broken picture frames and others, like Gulf Air in-flight magazines, which never had any value even before their pages turned so yellow.
However, it is not all rubbish. This is the ideal place to come if you need a chipped vase, have dropped the LG air-conditioner remote control on the floor too many times, need to replace the fan belt on your 1972 Peugeot 405 or are struck by a sudden desire to read a 1947 Longman Simplified English Series Edition of 'A Tale of Two Cities Printed for the U.A.R. Ministry of Education Only. Still, if this stuff has been burgled, then we are not talking about the Sultan of Brunei's home here. In reality, I think that the Burglars' Market is more a place to be pick-pocketed than to actually procure stolen goods. Although I suppose that pick-pocketing is procuring stolen goods in a sense. Evidently though, some of the merchandise at the Burlgars' Market has in fact been stolen. The relationship that people have with thieves is a strangely contradictory one. While so many can virtually shake with righteous passion when declaring their sacrosanct right to protect their homes from burglars, within the same breath they may not find the prospect of buying a cheap DVD player, with no questions asked such an offensive. George Orwell said that people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. Of course he is right, but what he did not add is that people do not always sleep so peaceably in their beds because other people are prepared to pay rough men to break in steal their things. As is often the case with rough men, you can end up back where you started.
I bought a Sanyyoid portable stereo from the market. I asked the young African boy who was selling it if I would be able to pick up the BBC World Service. With a deft flick of the dial he had it, not a perfect reception, but crackling through. But when I got home, it was gone. I adjusted the dial millimetrically on every band but could not pick it up. I twisted it at every possible angle, threw it, kicked it, but still no World Service. I later discovered that I could get the World Service Radio digitally crystal clear through the satellite dish. The Sanyyoid radio went into the bin when it chewed up a Radiohead cassette. For all I now, it has made it back to the Burglar's Market once again. Maybe it will journey to and from there forever, in a perpetual state of infinite return. If so, it will be joined by a perfectly good glass ashtray which cracked when I used it during a power cut and a bedside lamp which worked for all of six and a half minutes. Perhaps these items were not in fact stolen, but a robbery did take place when they old guy took my money for that lamp. Needless to say, there are no refunds and goods can not be exchanged. At the end of the night, when the market has ended, many of the pitches are left behind for the rubbish men.