Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Bjorn and Geir headed straight for the little stalls occupying the centre of the village square, curious to see what kind of things they had on offer. The stalls, less than ten in all, formed a miniature open air market, doing quite well by all appearances, attracting the attention of a surprisingly large number of people out and about in the grey and threatening weather.

The stalls were positioned in such a way that people cutting diagonally across the square naturally had to walk in between them on their way to the other side, which struck Bjorn as a clever way of attracting maximum attention also from people who would otherwise have ignored them.

"This is new," Geir remarked as they approached the cluster of stalls in the middle of the square.
"What is?" Bjorn asked looking at the make shift stalls.
"All of this. There was not any of this last time I was down here.
"And when was that?" asked Bjorn as he looked over at a selection of Asian sweets and specialities offered at the first stall they passed.
"Last week. I came down with Ante to help him buy groceries at Pingo."

Bjorn stopped and looked over at the tiny super market, next to the petrol station. "Really?" Bjorn remarked uninterested. "And there were no stalls out here then."
"Not that these stalls look very new," Bjorn continued. "Flimsy, make shift things, aren't they?"
"They probably found these stalls in some abandoned warehouse somewhere," Geir speculated.

A stall offering various snacks and refreshments caught Bjorn's eye. "That looks interesting," he mumbled, turning in its direction before excusing himself to Geir, who headed over to a stall selling cheese.
The snacks and refreshments stall was tucked in between a stall selling vegetables and another selling jackets and boots, as well as other garments, but Bjorn's attention was directed entirely towards a pile of baguettes and sandwiches being offered at the stand he was heading for.

"Ten MG for a baguette with cheese and ham?" Bjorn asked in English, surprised by the low price noted on the side of the stall.
"Yes, this is all ten MG," the short Arab-looking man behind the stall replied, pointing to his big variety of sandwiches and baguettes.
"And the coffee?" Bjorn asked, ignoring the little sign with "5MG per cup" propped up in front of the thermoses.
"That is five MG."
"Fifteen MG for a baguette and a coffee," Bjorn said approvingly. "Well why not?"

Bjorn handed his five hundred MG token over to the man, who reacted as if it was a fortune.

"Don't you have anything smaller?" the man asked, holding the token up against the light, as if to check for some kind of authentication.
"No, that's the only money I got," Bjorn replied bemused by all the fuss the man was making.
"Okay," he said. "But I will have to break this into smaller tokens. Do you have time to wait a minute? You can take your baguette and coffee while you wait."
"Sure!" Bjorn answered, feeling confident that he would soon get his change.

However, Bjorn felt suddenly less sure of himself when the man handed his five hundred MG over to a young, pre teen black boy who had been loitering in the background while Bjorn had been talking to the Arab. The man and the boy exchanged a few short sentences in Arabic, and the boy set off towards the Casino. Was this the last he was going to see of his five hundred, or would the boy return? Bjorn wondered, as he followed the boy with his eye.

"You gave my five hundred to that boy?" Bjorn asked nervously.
"Oh, don't worry, he'll be back," the Arab replied with a smile.
"But five hundred is a fortune to that boy!" Bjorn protested.
"Ah, but I know where he lives," the Arab replied with an even bigger smile. "Now, if you will excuse me, I'd like to help this gentleman over here."

Bjorn turned his head to face a tall blond guy who had apparently already signalled what he wanted since he got two sandwiches handed over to him as soon as Bjorn stepped aside. The man thanked the Arab, mentioning his name as he handed over a twenty MG token.

"Peter?" Bjorn asked, curious about the Arab's origin. "That's not a Muslim name, is it?"
"No, I'm Christian."
"From Syria?" Bjorn guessed.
"Yes. It is terrible what is happening there, you know."
"Yeah. So I've heard..."

Bjorn looked over at the Casino, but there was still no sign of the boy. He took a sip of his coffee, and looked around. There were young kids loitering everywhere, and it made him uncomfortable. Then it struck him that Lundby probably did not have any schools for the kids, and he felt again a sting of guilt as he realized the magnitude of the misery that he was being paid to sustain. "No school, no future!" he thought to himself, vaguely remembering a slogan from a political campaign he could no longer remember.

No comments:

Post a Comment