Summer Pasta


Last summer I shared a garden with my sister.  It was a bit undermanaged. Mostly because we were living in community with 4 kids under age 5… so weeding the garden did not always happen.  But it still produced a lot of good veggies. Part way through the season we realized our squash plants were diseased.  So I decided to harvest a bunch of squash blossoms since they would not be turning into squash anyway.


The thing about picking squash blossoms is that bees love them. On a few occasions I picked a blossom and was surprised by bee inside. After a while I learned to shake the blossom first and listen for a bee.

I experimented with the squash blossoms using different recipes. Our favorites were battered squash blossoms stuffed with herbed ricotta (labor intensive) and pasta with squash blossoms (much easier).


I was delighted to find squash blossoms here in Burkina. A woman with a produce stand near our house had some baby zucchini set out with little blossoms attached.  I went to buy some and she started pulling off the blossoms and discarding them for me.  She was surprised when I told her I wanted the blossoms but more than happy to give them to me.


With the blossoms I decided to make a pasta.  Soren and Anya helped me make the lunch.  Their little fingers are really great for peeling garlic…and it keeps them occupied for a long time.  Although, Anya kept getting confused and throwing the garlic out rather than the skins.  Once we got that sorted out we were on our way.  I added some red peppers which are a rare find here and the saffron my in-laws gave me. The pasta was delicious.


Summer Pasta

8-10 Zucchini

A pile of squash blossoms

3-4 red peppers

8 garlic cloves

6-8 slices of bacon or proscutto thinly sliced

4 tbl butter

½ cup heavy cream

1 cup chicken broth

Tagliatelle pasta cooked in salted water

¼ cup parmesan cheese for topping

2 pinches of saffron

Salt to taste

Slice zucchini and peppers into thin 2inch long strips.  Slice garlic length wise into thin strips.  Chiffonade zucchini blossoms.  Brown zucchini, red pepper, and garlic in butter.  Add bacon or prosciutto and cook until crispy.  Add chicken broth, deglaze pan, and cook down until ½ liquid.  Add zucchini flowers.  Cook 1 minutes.  Add heavy cream and saffron.  Simmer for 3 minutes.  Toss with cooked pasta and top with parmesan cheese.



House Tour


This week we went on a very unique house tour.  As many of you know last fall there was an uprising here in Burkina.  After 27 years in office the President Blaise Compaoré attempted to change the constitution so that he could stay in office for another term.  A fairly peaceful popular uprising ensued and Compaoré was ousted.   During the uprising the parliament building in the center of our city was burned and some of the houses of leaders connected to the president were ransacked.  One of the key figures in Compares regime was his younger brother François.  He has a reputation for cruelty, is rumored to have orchestrated killings of innocent civilians, and suspected by some to practice human sacrifices.  It was at François’s villa that soldiers first opened fire on demonstrators during the uprising.  In the end his house was ransacked. People who were there that day say evidence was found in the house linking him to the death of a journalist, human sacrifices, and extravagance at the expense of the Burkinabé people.

Some young people who feel compelled to make the house and its history accessible to the public have started giving guided tours of the house.  The house is interesting… the graffiti is fascinating and powerful.  This was the house tour.


The remains of the climate controlled dog house.
The remains of the climate controlled dog house.


The entryway. The face of Thomas Sankara, former president of Burkina who is hailed a hero.


the president of faso is elected for…

Master bathroom

Master bathroom

On the wall of the master bedroom.  It reads "money of the people"

On the wall of the master bedroom. It reads “money of the people”

A photo of demonstrators that has since been hung in the second floor bedroom that looks out over the city of Ouagadougou.

A photo of demonstrators that has since been hung in the second floor bedroom that looks out over the city of Ouagadougou.

make (food) not war
make (food) not war
justice where are you?
justice where are you?



If you are interested in more on this house and the story of our tour guide, Prosper Simporé,  check out this article: In Burkina Faso, a mansion offers a glimpse into the revolution

French Preschool



Here in Burkina Soren attends a local preschool that uses the French curriculum.  He just recently finished his first trimester.


Since it was his first time attending a preschool, and since it would be in a language he was only starting to get acquainted with, I was a bit nervous about how he would fair.  But he loves it!


I have read a bit about the differences between the French system and the American system.  Overall it seems that French preschools are a bit more structured, have more academic expectations early on, and slightly bigger teacher to student ratios.  The report card we got at the end of the trimester was about a page long and covered things like: independence, writing skills, attentiveness, world discovery, music, mathematics, motor skills, foreign language (English class) and artistic abilities.


The school has a big emphasis on art.  I am always interested to see what Soren will bring home. During the school break there was an option for students to participate in a 2 week art camp.  2 hours every morning just doing art.  Soren of course wanted to do it.  His only complaint was that he was not always allowed to use the colors he wanted to use (he loves to make things purple and blue).  I guess that is one difference in the French approach, there is a right way of doing things and kids are expected to follow the rule – an elephant is gray, the sky is blue, grass is green. Unlike American approaches which often celebrate any artistic deviations as creative thinking.


One thing I really appreciate about the preschool is their incorporation of world discovery into learning, preparing kids to be global citizens.  Kids are introduced to different languages and cultures through lessons, music, and art.  Last month Soren painted Japanese symbols, learned about the continents and had a Japanese music class.

At the end of the school year the preschool hosted a huge presentation and party.  The kids showed off some of the things they learned.  And an entertainment group performed some amazing stunts.  No parent volunteers were harmed in the stunts.






Traveling Abroad

the view from my hotel room when I spent an unexpected night in Abidjan due to canceled flights
view from my hotel room when I got stuck Abidjan due to canceled flights

I recently went on a work related trip by myself to a country I had never traveled to before.  In the past four years, since having children, travel has been mostly a family event.  So I was excited to have the opportunity for a little adventure alone.  An adventure that didn’t involve toddler tantrums, excessive kid accouterments, or having to be the in-transit entertainment.  It was fun.  I had a great time.


And as often happens when traveling I ran into a few unexpected bumps: lost luggage, canceled flights, missing bookings, being stranded in route, and illness.  So it turned out to be even more of an adventure than anticipated.  But I had fun and met some really amazing people along the way.  Encountering the bumps reminded of a few travel standbys:

  • Pack some necessities into your carry-on: This is the golden rule of travel…but easily neglected when carry-on allowances are shrinking and your carry-on is already full of electronics.  But trust me squeeze in a pair of underwear, a toothbrush and a comb.
  • Be prepared:  Have money in a few places, get a bit of money in the currency of the place you are traveling to ahead of time, have a contact for someone where you are going, etc.  Little preparations make a big difference when things go awry.
  • Let your inner confidence show—or fake it: Looking confident can dissuade unwanted attention.  Also, studies have shown that standing confidently, even if you don’t feel confident, will help you feel more confident be perceived by others as more confident.  Think posture and alertness. Click here for more on this topic.
  • Follow the crowd: Sometimes following the crowd is a good thing.  Not sure what’s going on or where to proceed to….follow the crowd.
  • Be friendly: Truly there are wonderful people everywhere, so don’t be afraid to be friendly and welcome someone’s help. Trust your instincts though if something doesn’t feel right; if you feel uncomfortable say so in firm clear language.  Be wary of situations not people.
  • Enjoy the ride: Adventures inevitably encountered along the way make for great memories and stories.


guinea fowl eggs


Last week I traveled to visit a partner a few hours south of our city.  On the way home I saw lots of people standing by the road selling eggs.  This surprised me because we recently had an avian flu sweep through and eggs have been a bit more difficult to find.  Turns out the eggs I saw were guinea fowl eggs.  And it is the season for guinea fowl eggs.  Of course I wanted to try them.

art credit: Soren WL
art credit: Soren WL

Guinea fowl are native to Africa.  We see them here roaming around in Burkina pretty often.  They are quite beautiful.  Black feathers and white dots.  At preschool Soren made a lovely rendition.

guinea fowl egg next to a coin the size of a quarter (didn’t have a quarter)

So I bought a bunch of guinea fowl eggs to try.  Turns out they are really rich and creamy and delicious!  I read online that people are breeding them in North America and selling them in farmers markets.  The eggs are slightly smaller than chicken eggs, about 2/3 the size.  They are harder than chicken eggs…you gotta give them a good whack to crack them.  The yolks are custardy yellow- a darker shade than most chicken eggs.  We had some great omelettes this week.  I thought I would include one of our favorite egg recipes that is packed with summer time veggies:

Greek Scramblette (adapted from the Floridian restaurant)

Serves 2

6 eggs (guinea fowl or another avian variety)

½ cup diced red onion

¼ halved Kalamata olives

1/3 cup thinly sliced spinach

¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil (reserve some for topping)

¼ cup diced peppers (red, yellow, green)

½ cup diced tomato

1 garlic clove minced

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (reserve a few bits to sprinkle on top)

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tbs heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté until browned.  Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and then pour into the sauté pan with the onion and garlic. Cook until the egg is cooked through.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and basil.

And if you are looking for something even heartier check out this delicious Caramelized Garlic Spinach Cheddar Tart

Water Sanitation and Hygiene

DSC_1070Imagine not having a toilet.  Not having running water at your home. Not having clean drinking water.  This is a reality for many people.  And the result of this reality is that many people suffer preventable diseases related to poor hygiene, sanitation, and lack of access to clean drinking water.  For children, who have developing immune systems, the health threat is even greater.  The World Health Organization states that:

“Diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old. [and]  A significant proportion of diarrhoeal disease can be prevented through safe drinking-water and adequate sanitation and hygiene.”[1]

One of our partners here in Burkina is working to address this issue.  The aim of their project is to educate communities on sanitation and hygiene as well as providing the means for people to practice good hygiene. Their model is based on the belief that Awareness + Access will equal people practicing good hygiene and sanitation and therefore reducing instances of preventable diseases within the community.

Here are some of the activities the project facilitates:

  • Training and awareness sessions that involve community members and leaders
  • Radio and TV campaigns
  • Student health clubs where students take responsibility for hygiene and sanitation at school
  • Educational talks with pregnant and lactating women
  • Hand washing stations (most schools in the villages this project works in have pit toilets and no facilities or running water for hand washing)
  • School sanitation kits and household hygiene kits

All the activities are aimed at raising awareness about sanitation and hygiene so that the community can take the lead in making changes. One of the theoretical models being used in the program is Community-Led Total Sanitation.  The approach was developed by a development consultant in India who “advocated change in institutional attitude and the need to draw on intense local mobilization …”[2] And that is exactly what this partner is doing…focusing on mobilizing communities.

As the school year came to end in Burkina, the student health clubs our partner facilitates hosted a multi-school art competition on hygiene and sanitation themes.  The competition provides a number of categories for schools to enter: drama, dance, drawing, and recitation.  The performances are juried by community leaders including representatives from the Provincial Ministry of National Education and Literacy, the Regional Ministry of Culture and the Health Department.  The brilliant thing about the competition is that so many community members come to watch and it is their own children raising awareness about hygiene and sanitation through the performances.

I was able to attend one of the preliminary competitions and then later the final award ceremony.  I was super impressed by the effort and abilities of the students who performed.  And most importantly I was excited to see that kids have engaged in thinking about how sanitation and hygiene practices directly impact their own health.  Here are some shots of the top performers.

A skit about a child who refused to wash his hands and became very ill as a result
a skit about a child who refused to wash his hands and became very ill as a result
performing a recitation
performing a recitation
group dance
1st place winner for drawing
interpretive dance
interpretive dance



opening ceremony…a traditional masked dance



Motorcycles…and the amazing things you can transport with them



Burkina has tons of motos.  It was one of the first things that struck me when we moved here.  Motos everywhere.  In fact the plethora of motos on the roads here combined with seemingly little road rules scared me away from attempting to drive at all during our first 3 weeks here. Eventually I attempted driving and it wasn’t so bad.   But then last Friday a young guy on a moto drove right into the side of my car!  Fortunately, he did not even fall off his moto and was not hurt.  So now I am back to being pretty scared of driving.

For many people a moto is their only form of transportation.  This results in some pretty incredible and inventive ways to transport things on motos.    Regretfully I was not able to capture photos of these but here are some of the best transportation feats I have seen on motos here in Burkina:

  • Two men carrying two giant coolers
  • A man carrying a copy machine with another one strapped to the seat behind him (and I mean the large late 1990’s type model)
  • Bunches of chickens hanging from the mirrors
  • A man carrying a goat across his lap
  • A woman with a basket that had a pig inside
  • Two men with a bunch of metal poles about 20 feet long
  • And my all-time favorite-a man driving a motorcycle one handed while balancing a LOVESEAT on his head.


The agricultural development organization Barry is working with has lent him a moto to get around on.  It is a little burnt orange Yamaha with some serious vintage appeal.  Soren and Anya were delighted that their papa now has a moto (like all the other cool dads).  While it is no feat according to Burkina standards of moto usage we have managed to get Barry, Soren, myself, and three backpacks transported via the moto.

And another topic…how many motos can be transported by mini van.