the sun gets up too early

Sunrise is currently happening in the neighborhood of 4:30. That's too dang early. Thankfully with the passage of the solstice it means we'll finally be heading in the opposite direction and I can slowly regain my sanity. Actually it's not so bad. The weather is sufficiently cool still that I can close my storm shutters and just let the tiniest sliver of light pierce my room. With that I don't get woken up quite so quickly. I'm afraid it won't last though, and when it really starts heating up I'd like to start sleeping outside. Whoa that no one can weave me a traditional bed overnight for $20 as in Benin. Even so, with the sunrise so early I wouldn't want to sleep outside yet.

I'm still running. My current plan is quite a bit less ambitious than marathon training mode, but it's enough to keep me fit enough that training again won't be difficult. I'm running 3 times a week; 2 hour-longs and a 30 minute on Wednesdays. I hope I can convince one or more of the new people to run with me come closer to fall, as there is a glut of marathons taking advantage of the beauty of turning leaves.

It's hard to believe that last year at this time I was cruising around on my rented motorcycle enjoying my last few days in Parakou. It's even more hard to believe that I've been here that long. It really doesn't seem like it's been that long at all. Crazy, crazy days.

Nothing all too exciting has happened in the past couple of weeks. We had our recontracting conference, where we talked all about... well recontracting. I'd say it was nice to miss a day of school, but it wasn't really. My conference tolerance is pretty low, although for all my complaints this was actually a rather nice one. The speakers in general were quite good, and the subjects relatively pertinent.

Beyond that I've really just been spending quality time with the friends who are leaving oh-too-soon. Hard to believe that some are leaving in a tad more than 4 weeks. Yikes.

sick...

I have a cold, and I blame the weather! (and elementary school). Nothing serious, and nothing preventing me from going to work... it's just annoying. Especially with the weekend coming up. I guess I don't really know which is better though; feeling crappy at school or feeling crappy at home. I guess I'll go with home.

MOS Burger recently reintroduced their 'hot chili'. I don't think I was around for its introduction, but it's changed my life. I mean, it's just chili... but it's chili in Japan and it's somewhat spicy. (By Japanese standards it's off the chart on the level of spiciness) I've always been a fan of MOS, but the chili cheese burger is way up there. Especially when you order extra chili to dip your fries and two onion rings in. (In their sets you can get a potato set, an onion set or an oni-pote set which combines french fries with 2 onion rings... yeah, that's right. Two.)

I can't seem to find a reference to the fact that I finally sought out Burger King in Japan with Brett. There are 6 branches, all in Tokyo. Burger King did try once already in Japan, but expanded too rapidly in a competitive environment. (For fast-food chains we've got First Kitchen, Lotteria, MOS Burger, McDonalds, Freshness Burger and probably others). They're making a new stab by following the Krispy Kreme strategy for Japan domination: start in Tokyo with one store, generate a lot of buzz and expand slowly. Currently Krispy Kreme Japan has been open for about 2 years, but in that time have only 7 stores. Of the seven currently opened, 2 have opened within the past month. They're all in the Tokyo area, and every branch I've visited has had lines out the door at all times.

Burger King hasn't quite gotten that amount of buzz, but they've been busy the two times I've gone. The experience is what you'd expect, down to the same feel and smell of the bun. I was actually a bit surprised. They also have a list of where each ingredient comes from in the burger, with all of the fresh items (lettuce, tomato, etc.) coming from Japan. I think my favorite feature was that you could buy extra packs of BBQ sauce. This seems like a given for a US chain, but I've never had luck at McDonalds asking, pleading and offering large sums of money for BBQ sauce. The only for sure way I've gotten sauce at McDonalds is by buying nuggets.

In further restaurant news, I finally investigated the mysterious "Lumberjack Cafe" that I pass every week on my way to Japanese lessons. It's always tantalized me with calls of 'tex-mex', and it turns out it really is! It was awesome. A bit on the pricey side, but you get quite large portions of food. They even have double size portions called "Lumber size" if you're really starving. I'm glad I asked before I ordered, as the regular portion of 'tacos' (which was sort of a combination of a taco and a taco salad) was huge. They also have sandwiches! I'm excited to go back at some point.

For all my talk of foreign food, I actually do enjoy Japanese food. After all, I eat it almost every day in school lunch. Not to mention various restaurants, peoples houses and others. All my foreign food consumption excitement I think is still being carried over from Benin. I really don't know why I'm still excited at the prospect of finding familiar cuisine readily available.