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#126 The Hub Nearby (where you get everything you love to miss)

January 6, 2012

 Submitted by Dr. Alden Kurtz of Hand Relief International who blogs [blogged?] at Hand Relief International, and tweets [tweeted?] at @hreliefintHRI – cutting at the edge of aid & development. 

Nairobi, Bangkok, Bali, Darwin, Miami, Johannesburg, Dakar, New Delhi. What do all these cities have in common?

You guessed it: All of them are officially serving sushi.

As in “You know, I don’t mind the hardship but I really do miss sushi. And going to the cinema”. Yep, all of them have cinemas too. (And decent-enough dentists for the paying customer, if you miss that by any chance).

Ohhh, BKK how we love thee. (photo:

It used to be all about missing a decent coffee, and then missing a decent salad (with baby spinach and real Parmesan) but the expat coffee house has kind of taken care of those*.

We have little nicknames for these cities (“Off to Nairobbery/ Will be in Jozzy next week”) , and you never, ever refer to any of them in writing except in a vaguely airport-code way: “Sorry I couldn’t get that matrix back to you earlier, but i was in NBO for the week”. Or: “You know that dim-sum joint off Soy Nana in BKK?”. Or: have you seen that fake Rolex Nathan bought in DPS?”

Yes sir, Expat Aid Workers really like the hub nearby and they absolutely love it when the respective hub has something of an edge itself (Nairobbery obviously beats Joburg and Joburg beats BKK due to the “high crime” factor. But then BKK beats Delhi and Delhi beats Miami, etc). Knowing your way around the hub gets you field cred points and knowing the best joints/ dives there is the only way to go. The best of us are personally well known by the staff in reputable establishments in all of these locations (we get to ask for “the usual”) and some have various transportation arrangements in some of these places (if not your own motorcycle at least a long list of taxi drivers that know you well).

Of course, when in the hub you always crash at someone’s house rather than stay at some “impersonal” hotel.

You love it when you run into people you know at the mall (often at the franchise bookstore because, isn’t it, you really miss a good book) and you love to admit that sometimes, you have a meal at Mackie D’s, because you miss it. (“Yes they did open a Burger King in BKK, but it is just not the same, isn’t it”).

And on the plane/ drive back, you always wonder, don’t you, why hasn’t anyone yet opened a Mexican restaurant in NBO. The real deal, like they have back in Texas.

*some of us long enough in the business love to remember missing decent toilet paper back in “the Balkans” and stocking up on the stuff in “VIE”, but those days are definitely over.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah permalink
    January 6, 2012 7:26 am

    Dr, Kurtz! (FTW — which is also an airport code, but unlikely to be near to anything truly spectacular — but you can probably get sushi there.)

  2. January 10, 2012 3:29 am

    I thought HRI worked the international circuit, we need some puerto ricans to open up a good mexican joint here. cross cultural stuff, rice, beans, lard & liquor.
    any time Herr Doctor, any time…

  3. Torsten permalink
    January 10, 2012 5:53 pm

    I know a colleague who had the same toilet paper experience just recently in Ghana and when he left he could sell hundreds of the big packs!

    And the last Burger King / McDonalds before your trip back to field is priceless. But what happened today, when I returned “home” – KFC welcomes you with big ads :-)

  4. Lara permalink
    January 11, 2012 3:22 am

    They did have a Tex-mex in NBO (although we like to call it “Nai” ;) when I was there in the 90’s; somewhere around Muthaiga I think). Although opened by the owner of a famous joint in Texas, the poor facsimile of decent Mexican food was actually pretty depressing. But they had line-dancing which was actually a fun bit of nostalgia, haha! …funny paradox; Indian restaurants in Los Angeles make me long for the Kenyan-British Indian that first got me hooked on the stuff! …I gleefully took Charmin to KTM a cpl yrs ago, only to have it Dissolve in the monsoon weather!!! Sand paper TP has it’s place ;D

    • Phil permalink
      January 20, 2012 2:18 pm

      Yep, I remember a Mexican restaurant in Nairobi around 2005. It didn’t bear more than a passing resemblance to Mexican food. It was basically Indian food with Mexican labels, but by that standard it was pretty good.

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