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In Liberia, splurging on sushi to feel at home

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Visitors to Monrovia, the capital of one of Africa’s poorest countries, shouldn’t expect to find a widespread electric grid, clean tap water, or a functioning postal system. But if they happen to get a craving for sushi, there are two joints in town that can indulge them. Both places import ingredients – fish included, most of the time – by plane from the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.

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On a recent evening at The Living Room, Monrovia’s original sushi bar, kimono-clad Filipino chefs chopped furiously behind a gleaming counter while Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” pulsed in the background. A meal here costs $25, an extravagance in Liberia where more than 80 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day.

Just outside the restaurant on that same evening, an adolescent girl sat in the semidarkness on the side of a road, selling little sacks of peanuts that were piled up on a tray in front of her. Her price? Seven cents each.

Sushi may be an expensive meal here, but for many of the diplomats and aid workers who are posted to this small West African country on a one- or two-year contract, the sushi bars and other Western indulgences are worth it, at least from time to time. For them, it’s a small price to pay for a little taste of home.

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