Friday, February 29, 2008

More stories from Africa

Apparently, I'm not destined to blog about books this week. In fact, it is national Peace Corps Week, so it's appropriate, I guess, that I'm thinking about my experiences in Africa and sharing them. You all will have to put up with another lengthy ramble from my journal...this time it is from my first month as a volunteer. To set the stage - I had finished my two-month in-country training period and been stationed in the capital city. It just so happened that I started my work during the month of Ramadan, and I decided to participate in the fast so that I could get a better feel for what life was really like in my new community. So here goes...

A Day in the Life

My alarm clock begins beeping at 4:15. Crickets chirp outside my darkened windows and I can hear the murmur of voices in the courtyard outside my living room window. If I ignore the alarm and fail to awaken, inevitably in a few minutes there will be a rapping on the window and someone will call my name. “Koumba, Koumba!” I swing out of bed, slip on some sandals, wrap a sarong around my waist and stumble out the door. “Aw ni sogoma” (Good morning) I croak. Four or five men sit huddled around a common bowl, scooping rice and sauce into their mouths with the right hand. “Nba, I ni sogoma,” they respond. A woman sits beside a coal brazier, stirring a large pot of hot milk. I pull up a chair and someone hands me a plate of rice. After rinsing my hands in a bowl of water, I mix the sauce into the rice with my fingers. When it cools enough to touch, I use my hand to make a sort of a spoon and begin to eat. In another part of the courtyard, children gather around other bowls, quietly eating. It’s dark; somewhere in another part of the neighborhood the muzzein is reciting parts of the Koran. Mosquitos nip at my ankles. Sulieman turns on a small radio and the familiar Parisian intonations of the ubiquitous Radio France newscast flow over my ears. Each day I find I understand and can follow the rapid text more and more, if I care to pay attention.

I can never even eat half of the rice that is heaped on my plate, so whenever I feel like stopping I put the plate down and motion for the bowl of water to wash off my hand. The man next to me hands me a cup of hot, sweetened milk with a hunk of baguette balanced atop it. I chew the bread sleepily and drink the milk to wash it all down. I try to listen to the muted conversation of the people around me which is inevitably in Bambara with a few French conjunctions thrown in here and there. Between trying to decipher the French on the radio and the Bambara spoken around me, I’m quiet and don’t attempt to add much to the dialogue unless asked a question. At which point I respond in the best Bambara I can muster, resorting to French words to fill in gaps in my vocabulary. When I finish with the bread and milk, I thank them for the food and then go back into my house to crash into bed. It’s still quite dark outside and the mosque lulls me back to sleep.

After a few more hours of sleep and several rounds of hitting the snooze on my alarm, I shake myself awake around 7:30 or 8:00. I’m expected to show up at work sometime around 9, but no one is keeping track. I fill up a bucket with cold water and use a dipper to pour the water over me. My tiny bathroom actually has a shower but it never has enough water pressure in the morning to sustain more than a few pathetic drips. After choosing an outfit and dressing myself in Malian clothing, I tie a matching strip of cloth around my head and arrange the excess cloth so that it drapes casually around my face. I slip on my dress sandals, check to make sure everything I need is in my goatskin leather purse and head out the door to greet whomever is around. You and the morning, was the night peaceful, how is your family, may we have peace in the day, may Allah bless us during this month of Ramadan - are just a few of the things we will say to each other.

Finally out the gate of my concession I stride down the street to catch the little green Peugot truck that is my public transportation into the center of the city. As I pass clumps of people, women selling bananas, children playing, men sitting in the shade I nod and sometimes greet them. It takes about ten minutes to reach the place where I will pick up my ride and I have to dodge motorcycles, cars, trucks, bikes, and pedestrians in order to cross the street. The green pick-up swings around the corner and the man in the back jumps out to usher passengers aboard. I climb into the vehicle, ducking my head to avoid hitting it on the low roof, take a seat on one of the benches and say good morning to the other passengers. Occasionally they will want to chat a bit, but usually everyone is lost in their own thoughts during the ride. The boy bangs on the side of the truck, running alongside and swinging himself into the back as the driver puts it in gear and we begin to roll into traffic. The same pattern is repeated at each scheduled stop. We reach the hectic street of the market and the road is clogged with green vehicles, all ferrying people to and fro. I hand my coin to the boy and tell him which stop I need to get off at. As we reach it, he bangs on the side of the vehicle and the driver pulls over. I get out and say goodbye, heading down the street to one of my two different offices. If it’s Monday or Tuesday I will have another ten to fifteen minute walk to OMATHO. If it’s Wednesday or Thursday, it’s only five minutes down a different street to CNPA.

As I walk down the busy streets, beggars call for my attention. Polio victims with shriveled limbs, old blind women, young women with armfuls of children. I haven’t yet figured out how to respond to every case. Sometimes I drop a coin into their buckets, but most of the time I pass them by. It’s a helpless feeling and one that I doubt I’ll ever get used to. As I pass stalls and shops, people call out to me in Bambara “hey, white woman, your clothes are beautiful” or “your braids are lovely” or “you look like an African.” I smile and say thanks as I continue on my way. Every once in a while a persistent admirer will walk alongside me trying to engage me in French conversation. I try to be polite but continue walking and tell him that I’m busy. I actually think that I may get myself a ring to wear and tell these sorts that I’m married and that my husband doesn’t like me talking to strange men. But so far, I’ve managed.

I get to my office and greet the guards and whomever is hanging out in the gateway. We joke around and they tell me how much I’m becoming like an African. I tell them that I couldn’t possibly be Malian because I can’t speak Bambara very well yet. Well, that will come “dooni dooni” they say. Little by little. Yes, I reply, Insh’Allah. If God wills it.

Entering the office, I make the rounds of greetings with all who are there and spend time chatting with the secretaries. Usually this is a melange of my very clumsy Bambara mixed with my much better French. If the person I am supposed to meet with is in a meeting, I may spend the entire morning just hanging out and talking while I wait. So far, although this grates a bit against my American sense of being lazy and useless, here it’s considered very important to build strong social relationships with your coworkers. So I tell myself that and enjoy the time chatting. The reception area at OMATHO always has some tour guides coming in and out, so I talk to them about their jobs, try to learn some of their languages. I can already do the greetings in Sonhrai, the language spoken farther east and north in places like Timbuktu and Gao. I’m trying to learn a few phrases in Dogon, the language of the people group of the same name who live along a long escarpment of cliffs and still practice much of their ancient traditions. Dogon Country is one of the main tourist draws Mali has to offer. I can’t wait to get my chance to go trekking there.

Because it’s the month of Karem and people are fasting, what would be lunch time comes and goes. Not everyone fasts, so there are people going out to buy street food and they take a bit of teasing from those of us who are fasting. Every time I am offered food and refuse, saying that I’m fasting, there is shock and usually amusement. Then expressions of approval and sometimes questions as to whether or not I pray. Yes, I say, I do pray but I’m not Muslim. I pray in the Christian manner. Oh, they respond. You mean like this? While they make the sign of the cross. Not exactly, I explain, I’m not Catholic, I’m Protestant. How do you pray? They ask. Anytime, anywhere, I respond. Ahhh. They look amused and curious. They tell me I should come to prayers with them sometime. I say we will have to wait and see. Then we all laugh and move onto another subject.

When I finally get to meet with whomever I’m assigned to that day, we speak French and he or she explains what their part of the office is responsible for. I try to ask questions so as to better understand. The other day at CNPA, I asked if someone could take me down the street to the Maison des Artisans where all the artisans work and sell their crafts. We went there and I was given an informal tour of the place. It’s essentially a big market and workshop. Leather being stretched and cut into sandals and bags, wood being carved into masks and figurines, beads being strung, cloth being woven, silver being heated and hammered into jewelry. I think I would like to buy one of everything, it’s all so lovely and interesting. I can’t wait to start buying items piece by piece to decorate my house. I met with the president of the maison, himself a jeweler and he was very enthusiastic and happy to learn that a volunteer was being assigned specifically to help in the artisan sector. He wants me to come back next week to spend some time getting to know people there and talking about projects we might undertake.

By two or three o’clock things at the office are slow and I usually take my leave. I catch the same truck from the morning, on a different leg of it’s route and get off near the Peace Corps office. Sometimes I come into the office to check my mail, see if a computer is free to check email, or just to talk with the staff. Then I walk to my tutor’s house for my language lesson. We sit outside in the courtyard under the trees and talk. I try to recount my day using whichever language we are focusing on that day. If it’s Bambara, the explanations are brief and straightforward. In French, I am working on getting more nuances and verb forms to flesh out my conversations as I am already proficient enough in simple discussions. Abdoulaye pulls a blackboard against the wall of the house and writes examples in chalk as I ask questions. As people come in and out of the courtyard, we greet them and sometimes talk with them for a bit. Practical application of language, after all. We stop at four o’clock briefly so he can pray. Then continue till around five.

At this point, we are both ready for six o’clock to come and the fast to be broken. Often, we will go out to the store around the corner and buy juice and yogurt, preparing for the call from the mosque that signals the end of the day’s fast. As soon as it the call begins we start by eating dates. I remember that I have always liked dates, but for some reason at the end of a day of fasting they seem to taste better than any food I have ever eaten. We drink steaming bowls of an herbal infusion like tea. It’s amazingly thirst-quenching and is apparently very medicinal and good for you, as well as tasting really good. Other members of the household come out to break fast with us and we all tell each other “I ni baara ji” which literally means “you and your work” but is often used when someone has done a good job at something. After the dates, the tea, the yogurt and the fruit juice, I feel sleepy and content. We usually all sit around rather quietly and reflectively, Abdoulaye and his friend smoking as they haven’t been allowed to do so all day. They wash and prepare to pray and I sit and read. After their prayers, we sit and talk and people begin to arrive for the evening’s communal prayer time/Koran recitation. Then the men go onto the porch and the women into the house. I’ve noticed that the men take turns leading the recitation. The melancholy Arabic tones drift past me and I spend the half-hour thinking, reflecting, studying my language notes, and doing a little praying of my own.

Afterwards, we sit around a common bowl and eat supper. Usually by this time I am tired and ready to head back to my house. Since it’s dark outside and my house is about a twenty-five minute walk, Abdoulaye has his friend drive me home or finds me a cab. I arrive at my house and the little shop that faces out into the street is always full of men on the front porch, watching television or drinking tea. “Koumba, you’re back!” they call. Sometimes I take them up on the invitation to join them in sitting and chatting. It’s a good chance for me to practice Bambara. Then I go into the courtyard and greet whoever is there, usually some women and children. I cross the courtyard to my house, unlock the door and go in. I flip on the lights, always aware of how lucky I am to have electricity as most volunteers in this country do not. After changing and slipping into bed, I write in my journal about my day, trying to make notes of whom I spoke to and what their names are so that I can remember them in the future. I study French verbs. I read a bit of a novel until I’m tired enough to sleep and then switch off the light, lulled to sleep by the sound of the oscillating electric fan.

Monday, February 25, 2008

musical memories from Africa

One of the things that I will always take with me from my Peace Corps experience is an expanded musical horizon. I have the best memories of living in Mali and being surrounded by music. From weddings to baptisms, from blaring radios on the roadside to griots bursting out in impromptu song, music is everywhere; it's a part of the culture and the fabric of life. One of the artists that I was lucky enough to not only see perform but also get to know on a somewhat personal level is Habib Koite. Yesterday, I found out that he had released a new album and promptly went out to buy it. As I sit here surrounded by the music, I'm equally surrounded by memories. It prompted me to dig up one of my old journal entries from when I first met Habib in Mali...

...I remember one of the thoughts that crossed my mind when I first learned I was being offered a Peace Corps assignment in Mali. For some reason, I already knew that Mali was known for a rich and vibrant musical tradition. Maybe it was my musician friends whose first reaction to my "I'm going to Mali" announcement was something to the effect of "hey, that's where Ali Farka Toure and Salif Keita are from." Hunting around the Barnes and Noble music section, I found a sample collection of Malian music and I recall playing it in my car as I drove around the Twin Cities in my last months of American life. Intricate guitar melodies evocative of the blues, intertwining rhythms, and the polytonal sound of the balafon, a wooden zylophone that instantly made me homesick for the Indonesian music that was the background of my childhood. All this to say, I couldn't wait to get to Mali and to be able to experience this music in its natural setting, in an interactive way.

So there I was, in Mali and as chance would have it, living in the capital city, the heart of Malian live music. One of my fellow volunteers was very plugged into the local scene. She kept mentioning this guy named Habib. Habib Koite. I'd never heard his music, but according to her, he's one of the best things Mali has to offer at the moment. Which is saying a lot considering the caliber of artists like Salif and Ali Farka. When word goes round that he'll be doing a concert at the French Cultural Center, a group of us get together and decide to go. The FCC is in itself a bit like stepping back into the western world. The small theatre space has a stage, lighting, theatre seating. It's a bit surreal, but nice. A French woman gets up and says a little piece about Habib and his band, introducing them to us and then the lights go down. A tall, dredlocked man walks out with a guitar strapped around his neck and takes his place in front of the microphone. He strikes the strings and begins to play a simple, but achingly beautiful melody. As he continues, he embellishes the notes, and the other band members walk out and take their instruments one by one, adding to the sound as it swirls and builds. I am sold before he even opens his mouth and begins singing in a warm tenor voice. I can't explain, but I suppose it is one of the beautiful things about music, the connection it can make with your soul. I feel deep down that this, this moment, this is one of the things I longed to experience in my Malian journey. The concert continues, I turn to my friend from time to time to get whispered explanations about lyrics, all of which are in Bambara. Habib's fingers fly over the strings of his guitar and I'm amazed at how many stylistic influences he embraces. It's obvious that both he and his band have had some experience with all sorts of music. Hints of Latin flamenco guitar, sliding blues notes, flowing classical scales, rock-like riffs. All seamlessly blended together with modern instruments like a drum kit and bass guitar as well as Malian creations such as the talking drum, the balafon, the djembe and the kora. When it's over, I turn to my friend and tell her that I'm a convert. When's the next show?

Life in Bamako goes on. Our little group of friends ends up going to see Habib and the band play at the Bouna several times. It turns out to be even more fun there as you can get up and move around, unlike the prim and proper setting of the FCC. Dancing our way through many an evening. Before Mali, I was always too shy about how I would look, how I didn't know any proper steps. But more and more I am letting go of my pride and just allowing the music to move me. I stomp my feet, shake my hips and move around and before I know it, I am having the time of my life. It's freeing and I realize more and more that Africa is helping me learn to live life in the moment. It's the night of Habib's last concert in Mali before he leaves to go on tour in the States. We all joke around with each other that we're going to miss coming out to hear the music. But the show is a good one. The band is on, we are all energized. It goes on until two in the morning. By this time, half of the audience has trickled out, tired and heading to their beds. But we stick around and a few of us walk over to say hi to Habib. He knows my fellow volunteer and asks how we are, how was the show, etc. We make small talk until he is called away on some business matter with his manager. Ah well, guess we should go. But suddenly he is done with whatever it was and he asks us where we're going. Do we want to go out to the Tempo? Er, where's that, we ask. Well, you take a right at the roundpoint, then a right, then a left, many of there are you, he asks. We do a quick head count. Nine or ten, we reply. I can take four in my car, he says, and my friend here can probably take five. Let's go!

We all grin at each other. Ok, we're game. A few of us jump in Habib's car and he puts it in gear, smoothly navigating his way through the deserted streets of downtown Bamako. When we arrive at the club, there's not many people there. A man in his forties, in dredlocks, opens my car door and says hi. He looks vaguely familiar, but I can't place him. We all end up in something of an executive suite hang-out room. Habib conducts furniture moving until we have a very comfortable big circle of low couches and chairs. We all take seats, and I end up across from Habib. The other man comes at sits at the end of the circle. A well-coiffed young woman takes our orders for drinks and small conversations spring up all over the table. Habib introduces the man at the end of the table as "a very great Malian musician, this is Omar..." "Koita!" I finish his sentence. Now I remember him! During my time in training, my host dad in village loved this man's music. We used to listen to his tape over and over. (I think to myself how excited my host dad will be when I tell him that I met his musical idol!!)

Habib lights up a cigarette, and I tease him with the words to one of his hit songs "no more cigarette. Abana (It's finished/gone)". He grins and replies that he only smokes on very special occasions, and this wonderful evening of meeting new friends and having a good time is one such occasion. The man definitely knows how to be solicitous and charming. In the corner of the room, two very very drunk Malian men, rich government officials or businessmen by their dress, are carrying on loudly. One of them begins calling "Habib! Habib! Chantes, chantes pour nous." (sing for us) At first Habib just glances over at them, smiles, and tells them that he's tired as he just came from giving a concert, but they continue to call at him. I wonder how long it will take for a bouncer to come escort them out, but Habib gets up and goes over to chat with them. He's courteous and patient, not demeaning. Finally after coming back to sit down with us but still being called upon to sing, he stands up and quiets the room. Then he begins to sing in a clear acapella, presumably making up a song and a tune on the spot. The drunk admirer gazes at him and after the song he begins to cry and sob loudly on the shoulder of his friend, who says loudly in French "see, this is what is so great about Habib. He doesn't forget his roots. He can still do the traditional thing." To which I can only assume he is referring to the griot tradition - the praise singers who are the keepers of the oral traditions. The position is passed down by family and griots are called upon to sing at all major social events in Mali, weddings, funerals, baptisms. Habib's family is griot.

In any case, after this minor entertainment the time passes more conventionally. My friend and I engage Habib in a conversation about his thoughts on development and progress. How does he feel about their effects on Malian culture? I specifically make mention to some of the lyrics in a song he wrote about how this generation is a good one. How they have opportunities to see the world through the medium of television. While my French is pretty good now and I can understand everything he says, I sometimes have a hard time following him. He tends to ramble from one subject, one example, one story to another, and I feel that I can't always thread them together. But essentially, he is both hopeful and cautious. Hopeful in that he sees the possibilities of technology but also cautious in that he fears the loss of his culture, a unique and irreplaceable thing. It's a fascinating conversation and I am sad that we've only started it now at this late hour because everyone is winding down and soon we have to leave. It's five in the morning. A new day is coming. As we say our goodbyes, I tell Habib that I hope his tour in the States will be a good one and promise him that I will email all my friends back there to tell them to go to the shows. He says thanks, and we all pile into cars and cabs to go our separate ways. My Malian musical adventures are only beginning.

...and that was indeed just the beginning.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Who says politics can't be stimulating?

Hello! Is it so wrong that I now want to insert this photo into some sexy Western romance novel? Please tell me that I'm not totally crazy. lol.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Heads up Crusaders!

Netflix now has North and South available as an instant play. I've only just started using this very excellent feature, and it rocks. You can watch selected movies on your computer instantly. No waiting for part 2 to come in the mail! Go forth and rewatch. ;)

I'm alive

So the last week and a half I have been pretty much absent. I had this big team project/presentation that I had to give on Thursday night for my Finance class. Last weekend I spent pretty much every waking moment buried up to my ears in spreadsheets and numbers. Between work this week and putting together the powerpoint for the project, I just haven't had the time to read, let alone update this poor blog.

But now I'm finished! yippee!

In the reading department, I am still working my way through the Kresley Cole book Captain of All Pleasures. It hasn't really been doing the trick for me. Nothing inherently bad about the book, just nothing all that special. It feels somewhat cliched and redux. That said, I did sit down with it for a good hour this morning and now that I'm in the last 3/4s of the book, it seems to be picking up (finally).

I've been looking over the e-books I snagged from Harlequin during their daily freebie giveaway over the holidays. Funny enough, one of the ones that I did read during the time I was working on my finance project was set in New York and the protags were supposed to be big finance execs. haha. It didn't really inspire me to keep studying. I also started one by Hope Tarr called Strokes of Midnight. This one seems promising. The writing is decent anyways and I'm not rolling my eyes after the first few chapters. I feel like categories are so hit or miss. I haven't really read them since my teen years, but I'm trying to dip my toe back into the waters. Sometimes short and sweet is all I have time for.

Watched another episode of Torchwood before bed last night. I don't care if John Barrowman is playing for the other team; I'd do him. He is purty. And although sometimes you want to slap Captain Jack for being such a cocky self-assured bastard, you want to hug him at the same time.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Manlove Monday Lite

I'm emerging from my cocoon of financial data analysis overload (don't ask...big MBA class project due next week, entire weekend spent manipulating numbers in spreadsheets and creating financial models, w00t).

Anyways, blogger buddy lisabea and I decided to hold an abbreviated version of our patended MLM ™. This week's entry will be short and sweet (at least on my end...I think hers will be longer and bettah). But hopefully still entertaining and fun. *g*

This is yet another short clip from Torchwood. That Captain Jack...he knows how to kiss teh mens! But rather than tender and romantic, this interchange tends towards the aggressive and violent. whoooeeeee, it's hot in there! All you Buffy fans will no doubt recognize the object of Jack's affection/aggression.

Happy Manlove Monday to everyone!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The truth about dogs and cats

My coworker forwarded me this email today and it made me giggle. Of course, one can always improve upon animal funnies by adding LOLcats/dogs. So here's a laugh, just for the hell of it.

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My fav orite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!


Day 983 of my captivity. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets.

Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am. Bastards!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

This morning I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow-- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly . I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now...


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ice, Ice, Baby

Yesterday started off with little bouts of snow flurries which turned into freezing rain in the late afternoon. My night class was cancelled which meant more time to lollygag at home. This morning I woke up and checked the school website only to find that due to the weather, we were going to open at noon. yippee! More sleep! And just now, they've updated to say that we're closed all day long. Outside I can see my car encased in ice and the freezing rain continues to fall. So what do you call this? Not a snow day per se. Ice day?

I call it a day in which I ought to be studiously working on a monster Finance project for class night week but in which I'm more happily ensconced watching the last few episodes of Doctor Who Season 3. lol. Procrastination is my specialty.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's of primary importance... participate in one's democracy. Or at least what's left of it.

So today I get to go vote in a presidential primary. woot! And since this is a blog where I get to say what I want but in which I don't intend to get all serious, I'll just say that my candidate is the hottest one on the ticket. *g*

(and yes, I have done my homework and am voting for him for substantial policy reasons, but I tend to save my wonk-y discussions for other places)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Man Love Monday - version 3.0

Hello again. Well, we're back with another edition of Man Love Monday. Yes, that's right. A whole day dedicated to blogging about the beauty of m/m. As always, please be sure to check out my uber-cool buddy lisabea's blog for an exclusive interview with author Josh Lanyon, and of course (her specialty) HOT photos.

As I talked about last time, I had a great experience reading JL Langley on my first venture into straight-up (teehee) m/m romance. So I figured that I would try another book by her. This time I read With Caution which is an entry in what appears to be a series based around a pack of gay werewolves. (Well, to be fair, I don't think it's a requirement that they be gay to be in their pack, but it seemed like 90% of them were. So I guess we can call it that.)

Our story starts off with a bang. Nothing like a wetdream about oral sex to pick up the pace. Yowza! Our young hero Remi is trying to come to terms with his new werewolfness and what seems to be an unlikely attraction to his friend Jake. He has these new tingly exciting feelings of arousal which confuses him because he can't possibly be gay. Or can he? Remi comes from an abusive background in which his homophobic father routinely beat the crap out of him. His younger brother still lives at home and Remi will do almost anything to protect Sterling. He doesn't want to do anything to piss off his father to the point that he'll hurt Sterling and this makes him afraid to explore the new feelings he has for Jake.

Jake knows that Remi is destined to be his mate. Why? Don't ask me, it's some sort of magic having to do with werewolves and karma and stuff. In any event, Jake knows that Remi is THE one even if it's going to take Remi a while to figure this out. Once he does though, LOOK OUT! Actually, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised that the 'getting together' part didn't get dragged out too long. Once the idea of being Jake's mate has been introduced to Remi, he seems to get used to the concept with relatively little angst. Hooray, now let's get down to the good stuff! Jake and Remi are really good together. Their love scenes are tender and emotional yet passionate and forceful. Oh and down-right hot. Exhibit A: Leather chaps + red jock strap = oh hell yeah!

Of course, trouble brews with the mean old father, but in the end, Remi's pack has his back. What I liked about this story was that the guys were, well, guys. They played football and drove Harleys and shot pool. They razzed each other and tussled. The dynamic between Jake, Remi and the rest of their pack felt very natural. A bunch of guys who happen to be werewolves, and oh yeah, many of them are coupled up as mates. While this book didn't work as well for me as My Fair Captain (most likely because I'm a historical reader at heart and don't read many contemps), what I do like about Langley's writing is a sense of respect for her characters. I never feel like the m/m factor is there to shock or titillate. It's just a fact of life and you're sucked into the story and are rooting for the HEA just as you would for any other romance couple.

So three cheers for a happy ending for two hot and sexy men. I give this book a solid B.

And now I leave you with possibly one of the most romantic (and achingly sad) things I've seen in quite some time. Merci beaucoup to Carrie Lofty for the heads up on this. Just watch and be moved. Talk about Man Love! le sigh.

Oh, in case anyone wants to know, the clip is from the television series Torchwood and you can catch it on BBC America on Saturdays and Sundays.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

what's up with saturday...

Randomness in no particular order.

1. This morning I woke up at 7am because I had signed up to participate in a volunteer opportunity sponsored at the uni where I work. I figured I could spare a few hours on a Saturday. I was with the group going to Habitat for Humanity. It was pretty cool. We ripped all of the siding off a house so that it can be redone properly next week (apparently the people who put it on did it all wrong). Gosh, my arms are out of shape. I tore into that stuff, yanking off slats, pulling out nails and stuff, hammering in the nails that were broken. By the end, my arms were shaky. lol. Still, it was good to be outdoors and to be doing something physical. I'm glad I went. And I think I will contact HFH directly and see about volunteering from time to time in the future.

2. An entry at zeek's blog made me think of JR Ward's upcoming books. So on a whim, I thought I'd go over to and see what the average wait time would be for Lover Enshrined. ha! Guess how many people have it on their wish list? Just guess!



3. I love my new crockpot. I got it for Xmas from my parents (basically, I told them that I wanted one, so that's what I got) and I've only used it a handful of times so far. I made some chili last week which lasted me for a long time. Yesterday morning we had a breakfast party at work and I made this cool ham, hashbrowns, egg, cheese casserole thingy that I threw together at night, put the pot to cook all night and woke up and it was done. How cool is that? Now I'm making split pea soup. I'm on a roll!

4. I watched 3 episodes of Doctor Who last night and they were all freaking FANTASTIC! (I wish I could say that word with the same panache of Chris Eccleston.) First there was this amazing two parter Human Nature/Family of Blood in which we get to see the Doctor as someone other than the Doctor. What a great range of emotions and Tennant did a bang-up job. Bravo! I actually shed a tear at the end when he has to make the difficult choice to return to his lonely traveling lifestyle in order to save the world. Then there was Blink, which was creepy and terrifying and not the episode you should watch just before turning out the lights and going to bed. Think of stone angel statues that attack in the blink of an eye but freeze into place if you look at them. Just don't look away and whatever you do...don't blink! (the power of eyes were so irritated from crying in the previous episode I could do nothing BUT blink. lol)

5. Just finished reading With Caution by JL Langley and plan to write more about it for Man Love Monday. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Here but not here

Wow. I really have slowed down my blogging. I think that's due to a couple of things. One, I'm back in MBA classes which take up my Tuesday and Thursday evenings (class) and chunks of my weekend (homework). Two, my job is hitting the busiest season of our year (college admissions) and by the time I get home, I don't feel like typing or thinking or anything. Three, I'm in a bit of a reading funk. Part of that getting home and being tired thing. Four, I've spent the last two weeks (has it really been that long) on a mega-glom of Doctor Who shows. Fantasy is so much better than reality. le sigh.

Anyways, I did read one new book this past weekend, The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne. Top notch book; loved it. Gonna try to review it properly soon. And I bought another JL Langley book last night, With Caution. I plan to settle down with that one over the weekend so as to have some new manlove to talk about on monday. lisabea, are we on for MLM this week?

Oh yeah, and I still need to complete my ballot for the AAR poll. I'm gonna do it. Every night I say that I will sit down and finish it. But then I get distracted. Thing is, I don't really read books the year they're published. Or at least not all that many. If you skim this blog, you'll find far more reviews of old books that I picked up at the library than any hot, current ones. What can I say? I'm cheap and the library's free. Besides, there's a lot of books out there and many of them, I've not yet read. *g* But yeah, I will complete my ballot. Because I vote! (and there's another thing that's been taking up my attention lately...politics. But I won't go into that here.)

As for Doctor Who...after starting in the middle of the series, I went back and watched season 1 in which Christopher Eccleston played the Doctor. I have to say, I wasn't expecting to like him as much as Tennant but I grew really attached to him. He's got an almost feral vibe. Very lean and rangy, dark and unpredictable. Funny too. I got all choked up at the end of the season when he 'changed'. *sniff* And then of course I get used to Tennant again (but still miss Chris) and get all comfy with him and Rose flying all over the universe battling Daleks and other evil whatnots. And then Rose has to leave. *sob* So here I am in the middle of season 3. Still hanging in there. Missing old characters but always up for a bang-up story in which the Doctor meets new challenges and manages to save the world yet again.

Monday, February 4, 2008

And the winner is...


Cathy B! Your name was drawn out of the hat in my little contest for a copy of the most excellent My Fair Captain by JL Langley. woot! congrats! Shoot me an email at sulawesigirl4 at yahoo dot com so I can figure out how this whole e-book gift certificate thingy works. lol. A hot bundle of man love will soon be winging its way to you. Nate and Aiden! Humina yumina! :)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sabrina Jeffries on North and South

Head on over to my good buddy KristieJ's blog for an exclusive with Sabrina Jeffries. Hint: she's seen and loved North and South and our dearest boy RICHard! *g*