Archive for June, 2018

June 24, 2018

ISHOW Kenya and E4C Kick-off

In the beginning of May I had the privilege of attending Innovation Showcase (ISHOW) Kenya, an event that brings together inventors/entrepreneurs who are developing technology solutions that are accessible to low-income populations. Nine finalists from across Africa were invited to participate in the event. On May 9th the event was launched with an introductory session in the afternoon followed by a dinner. The next day the finalist teams went through rotations of meeting with industry experts in a particular area of product development. E4C was also a part of the rotation and interviewed the finalists to determine whether they were appropriate products to include in the Solutions Library. The finalists included a producer of biomass smokeless brickettes, a hands free pedal tap retrofit, a cart for street vendors that incorporates solar panels, a machine that harvests water from the atmosphere, an environmental controller for monitoring baby chicks, a biogas milk chiller for off-grid dairy farmers, a neonatal bacterial meningitis diagnostic device, and a smart electronic walking stick for the blind. As the expert fellow who was familiar with the library, I conducted the first interview, and then allowed all of the fellows to have a turn interviewing or note-taking. It was very interesting to talk to the teams of entrepreneurs. At the end of the afternoon there was a reception, and the judges announced the three winners who would receive between them the $50,000 seed grant and access to prototyping equipment. The winners were the biogas milk chiller, the biomass brickette producers, and the chick monitoring device. I like the structure of the event because all of the finalists get to network and benefit from the knowledge of the consulting experts. During the reception I conversed with several different people including an interior designer, business coaches, entrepreneurs, and global development practitioners.


The next day the E4C Kickoff session started bright and early. It was similar in structure to last year except that we shared our introductions over Google Hangouts with the fellows who had attended the kickoff session in Portland. Since favourite movie was already done for the Portland session when the fellows in Nairobi were the ones calling in, we came up with the idea to share something that might be surprising about ourselves. It produced some very interesting stories! Next we had a presentation from a representative from Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), a producer of sanitary pads using banana fiber. Then Iana, the E4C president, and Mariela, the program manager, took turns presenting different aspects of E4C as a whole, the Solutions Library, and how the fellows would be contributing to the work. Near the end of the day I had a time slot to bring the fellows through the practice of filling out a product report for the Solutions Library. For happy hour we decided to go to a neighbouring hotel called Ibis that has a nice rooftop bar. It started raining just as we planned to go and so we ordered Uber rides to get only a few hundred meters! We socialized over drinks (and cocktails because there was a special 2 for 1 happy hour deal) and I enjoyed hearing a bit more of people’s backgrounds and areas of work and research. This year’s cohort is from around the world and I am looking forward to working with them over the next four months!


Tags: , ,
June 23, 2018


I am in awe at how God works things out sometimes. When I accepted to serve with IRI in Congo, I committed to serve 3/4 time because I knew that I would need to find some other work for additional financial support. Soon after, I was offered a position to be an expert fellow with Engineering for Change from May until September. This opportunity was ideal because the work is part time and done remotely. What amazed me even more is that I discovered that E4C had decided to have two kickoff sessions this year, one in Portland Ohio, and the other in Nairobi Kenya. Also, the kick-off session in Nairobi was being planned for May 11th, only a few days after my flight was scheduled to arrive in Kigali! All it required of me was to post-pone my arrival in Congo by one week, and book a flight from Kigali to Nairobi. The only inconvenience was that flight times were limited and so I had a 5 hour layover and a red-eye flight that left Kigali at midnight and arrived in Nairobi at 4am after a stop in Entebbe. The flight didn’t allow me any sleep, and so it was only the adrenaline of being in a new place that kept me going. My friends Jon and Kate recently moved to Nairobi and so I had arranged to stay with them for the first night. I know them from my time in Congo in 2014 and since then have visited them once in Ann Arbor and again in Congo. I was looking forward to seeing them again after two years! Jon had kindly arranged for a driver to come pick me up at the airport. The drive to their place took almost an hour. I was amazed at how cool it was and near the end of the journey we drove through thick patches of fog. Finally we arrived and it was still dark. How wonderful it was to see such warm and familiar faces! I sat with Jon and Kate in their living room and we caught up as they enjoyed their morning coffee. They were the first I shared the news of Othy and my engagement with, which was extra cool because they know both of us! Afterwards Kate made bacon and eggs and we enjoyed breakfast together and were soon joined by the boys. I enjoyed seeing the lush landscape out of the large back window as dawn arrived. Jon and Kate live in a house in Limuru, which is apparently one of the colder parts of Kenya and is an area known for its numerous tea plantations. It is so fresh that they heat the house by burning wood in a fireplace. Because of the fog and the rain, they were having trouble finding dry wood.

Shortly after breakfast I went and took a two hour power nap. I didn’t want to sleep so long as to throw off my schedule. I helped Kate do some homeschooling with the boys and then we went on a walk. They showed me their backyard which was a vast area of lawn and gardens full of large tropical plants and trees. We also visited the neighbour who rents the house to Jon and Kate and is responsible for creating this piece of paradise over the many years she has lived there. Her house is beautiful and from the colonial period. We chatted for a while with her and warmed ourselves by her fire. From there the boys showed us the soccer pitch that the landlord had set up for them and then took us through a trail at the back of the property. There were so many beautiful flowers and thick vines hanging from the trees! Jon and Kate decided to take me to have lunch at Brackenhurst. It is a nicely developed hotel and conference centre. Afterwards they took me on a drive to see the tea fields. The landscapes are stunning and I found that the pictures I tried to take didn’t really do it justice. We returned to the house and spent some time working, and then in the evening we made the decision to go and visit Phil and Emily who live only 40 minutes away at Rift Valley Academy. Phil and Emily are long time friends with Jon and Kate and I know them from my time working with EMI Uganda. We arrived just as the sun was setting. The view of the rift valley we had along the way was amazing! We drove along the top edge of it, and then to get to RVA we started curving our way down into it. We enjoyed catching up over a dinner of pizza and salad and delicious homemade cookies. The visit was short and sweet and we were soon on our way home. Unfortunately some fog had rolled in and it was a bit stressful coming back out of the valley because of being unable to see very well. We made it out and home safely and by then I was pretty out of it! I went straight to sleep! The following morning Kate made pancakes with a delicious homemade syrup. I played some lego with the boys for a bit and then Jon arranged for the same driver to come pick me up to take me to the Azure hotel where I would be staying for the rest of my time in Nairobi. I was sad to say farewell to Jon and Kate so soon, but was thankful for the time we had together and for their generous hospitality!






June 16, 2018

Othy’s Visit – Family Time

The last part of Othy’s visit was to finally meet my family and see the area where I grew up. On Friday morning we emptied the car, did some work, and then in the afternoon I took Othy to Balls Falls. It had been so long since I had been there, and I kept missing one of the last turns to get there and so we had to turn around and backtrack several times! It was VERY windy, so much so I was wondering whether or not we should even walk around! We had even passed a fallen branch on the drive there. We proceeded with caution and hiked to the upper falls, then walked around the settled area where there is a small chapel, a barn, and a house. Unfortunately the buildings were closed to visitors but we still enjoyed walking around the grounds. There were large white tents installed everywhere, maybe in preparation for some kind of arts and crafts show. One of the tents had completely blown over! Lastly we went to the lower falls that is just adjacent to the cluster of buildings. Othy got a funny photo of me as we were walking over the pedestrian bridge and a crazy gust of wind took me off guard!





For the sake of nostalgia I stopped in at Jordan Public School which is now vacant. Although there was a sign that says no trespassing, I couldn’t help but go and sit on the swings which were my favourite pass time during recess! From there we went to visit the old school house and then several of the shops along Main Street in the village, one from which we bought some delicious fudge. The last stop that I wanted to make was to visit my cousins who live in the house that I grew up in, but nobody answered the door. I drove us to an empty lot right by the QEW onramp where I was hoping we might be able to walk down to the water. There was no way down however, and so instead we climbed up onto a small incline where we were at least able to see the water. It was still so windy and we had to be careful not to get pulled off! You could see the wind pulling at the water drawing it away from the shore! On the way home I could really feel the wind pulling at the car. Al arrived later that evening. Mom made lasagna for dinner because she knows it’s one of my favourites! We came on the topic of what Al does for work, and then she offered to give Othy a tour of her workplace which Othy responded with a wholehearted YES! I also enjoyed seeing it because her job is so interesting, and her company recently moved to a larger facility.





The next morning Jen and Chris came to visit. In the late morning Jen, Othy and I went and visited my Grandpa. Grandpa was very happy to meet Othy. Ironically, Othy knew a few words in Malay that he had learned from a visitor at his university. Later in the afternoon we went to Niagara Falls. It was a perfect day for it! We found parking and then walked alongside the falls while stopping to look and take photos now and then. While Chris went back in search of his water bottle, Jen and I explored the gift shop area. To get back to the car we went upstairs in the building and crossed over the pedestrian bridge. There were daffodils planted everywhere! Before we left for home we walked through a beautiful row of blooming magnolia trees. I was glad that I got to see signs of spring before leaving! My dad had shared with Othy before leaving for Niagara Falls that he was unimpressed with them, but Othy did not agree and neither do I. The amount of water going over those falls always astounds me!



I’m going to miss this one!




Back at home we had an appetizer dinner together. It was my idea so that Othy could experience the style of meal we have on special holidays. After dinner my family got into an intense discussion on politics, a very common occurrence at our family gatherings! Othy expressed some of his views from his experience in Congo, and then he smoothly changed the subject to express how happy he was to meet my family, how much he loved their daughter/sister, and if they would give their blessing for us to get married! I couldn’t believe that this day had come and this was actually happening! Othy and I had already planned that this would happen, but I was still blushing, smiling wide, and tearing up a bit. Then Al said something like; “Is your heart racing Lise? Because mine certainly is!” and everyone laughed. My parents gave us their blessing and there were hugs all around! Then we took a family photo (a nice one and a crazy one, also a family tradition!) and then played a game of Wizard. We didn’t stay up very late because my dad had to get up very early for work the next day. Othy said goodbye to him that evening because he would not see him the next morning.



I finished packing the car in the morning and putting a few last things in storage, we took a farewell photo with my mom and sisters, and then Othy and I went to church with my mom. We had to leave pretty quickly after church because I had plans for us to meet up with Vikkie at the airport before going through security. Before we left, Ingrid stopped in to say goodbye! I got emotional when saying goodbye to my Mom who has always been an amazing role model, friend, and prayer warrior. Othy and I hit the road and managed to keep mostly on schedule! We stopped quickly in Stoney Creek to meet up with Othy’s friend (the same one who visited us in Toronto) who wanted to give him some things to take back with him. Once at the airport we dropped off the rental car and went to Terminal 3 to meet Vikkie. Vikkie and I got to chat while Othy waited in line to check in his luggage. She gave me some wonderful treats and items from her recent trip to Japan (the reason why we had not been able to meet up with her during our time in Toronto). Then we had a late lunch together at Freshii. Vikkie and I bid farewell to Othy because our time had run out, and then I bid farewell to Vikkie because I was flying out of Terminal 1. The time had come! I was about to embark on a big journey and also move into the next season of my life.


20180507_000544 copy


June 9, 2018

Othy’s Visit – Road Trip Part 2

Our first stop on the way back from Montreal was to quickly drop in and visit some of the family near Belleville. Othy enjoyed seeing all of the farmland we passed by after getting off of the highway. My plan was to visit my Aunt but she had not been responding to my texts. But then as we turned onto the street near where they live, there she was in her car sitting at a stop sign! It turns out she had stopped to check her phone for texts because she had left it at home while taking the grand kids to the park. Although she was on her way somewhere, she turned around and we had a quick visit with her at the house. From there we drove to the old farm house to visit my cousin Janice. She was home with the twins. They were shy around us (especially Othy) but you could tell they were curious! Finally Janice told them to show us their turtle and then they totally forgot that they were supposed to be shy! In the dining room they have a small fish tank with a medium sized snapping turtle inside! Janice told us the story of how they found him on their driveway and then kept him. She also told us about their mama cats who both had kittens, but that she was hoping they were doing okay because they had chosen to have them high up in a tree!

We couldn’t stay long, but before we left Janice asked the twins if they wanted to show us the barn. Of course they did! We went and visited the hens, found an egg, and then went and fed the goats some hay. On our way out, Janice paused and said that the C.A.T.s were okay after all. I didn’t understand right away until she tilted her head towards the corner. I realized that she was trying to tell me about them without alerting the twins. Her attempt to hide it failed and the twins soon found and began holding and petting the kittens! Fortunately they already had their eyes open. So cute! Before we left we took a fun photo to remember this short and memorable visit!




We hit the road again but only for a short time because the next destination I had in mind to visit was Presqu’ile Provincial Park near Brighton. It was further off of the highway then I had thought, and so our time there was short as well. The park is on a very narrow peninsula on lake Ontario. The road makes a nice loop through the park and so we drove directly to the end were there is a lighthouse. At the lighthouse all we could see was the lake meeting the grey misty sky. We decided not to stay here too long because Janice recommended checking out the boardwalk that goes through a wetland that is closer to the entrance of the park. She was right to recommend it because it was oh so beautiful! Red and green spruce trees stood out among golden dead wetland grasses against a grey sky. I don’t think I have seen anything quite like it. The boardwalk wove through this landscape and I was sad that we didn’t have the time to walk the whole thing. We went in a ways simply admiring the view, and then turned around and went back. It was very peaceful because there was nobody there but us! Othy enjoyed taking pictures of me because he thought I matched the colours of the grasses.





After spending twenty minutes there we hit the road again so that we would get back to Toronto by dinner time. Susan prepared us a really nice dinner of salmon and roasted vegetables and we enjoyed spending a last bit of time with her and Andrew. Somehow we got on the conversation of wanting to learn the violin, and Othy asked Susan if she could give him an introductory lesson. He managed to learn how to play some scales and the beginning of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He caught on very fast! After that we loaded the car with the remaining items that I had to bring home including our packed suitcases. It was miraculous that it all juuuuust managed to fit into the compact rental car. We hit the road once again and arrived at my parents place after 10pm. I am thankful for all that we got to see and do together on this mini roadtrip, and that we had safety on the road. What a full and amazing day!



June 2, 2018

Othy’s Visit – Road Trip


Our first destination was Cambridge and Waterloo. I took Othy to the school of architecture and we walked around the building and looked at the exhibition at Design at Riverside gallery right before it was about to close. From there we went to Brent and Cathy’s place. We got a tour of the house, shared a lovely meal (lasagna!), went for a walk around the park behind their house, and then Brent introduced Othy to the game of golf! We talked well into the evening over tea and snacks. I was thankful that Othy got to meet this couple that I consider as my surrogate parents!


We left early the next morning so that we would have time to visit the University of Waterloo before traveling on to Montreal. We drove around the ring road and then went and parked on the east side of the campus on the other side of the tracks. From there we walked to the Cheriton School of Computer Science which is in the Davis Centre. I had not been to this building since visiting the campus while still in high school! We found a graduate studies administrator who provided us with useful information and even gave us a quick tour of the building! Afterwards I took Othy to explore the newer Engineering 5 building (designed by Perkins+Will) since I had not yet been inside. Othy enjoyed looking at many of the research posters that were hanging around the building. There was also an interesting double height collaborative design space on the first two floors.


Our visit was short and sweet because by 11am we had to be on the road to Montreal in order to get there in the early evening. I had made plans for us to couch surf with a couple from Catalan who I had hosted several months earlier in Toronto. The drive took 7 hours with a short stop for a fast-food lunch. When we were entering the city I accidentally went on the highway heading to downtown instead of uptown where our hosts live, but fortunately Brent and Cathy had given us a map of the city they had lying around and we managed to turn around and get back on track! Not having data on my phone meant getting lost the good old fashioned way! Once we made it to the neighbourhood were our hosts live, we had a very difficult time finding parking! It was worse than Toronto which is saying something! There were all kinds of signs all with different rules and exceptions that could drive anyone crazy! Finally after about twenty or thirty minutes we found a spot. I almost couldn’t believe it and so was triple-checking the sign thinking it was too good to be true! Our hosts were very welcoming and soon had us feeling settled. They have a little toddler who was crawling when I last saw him but was now he was walking! We wanted to pick up some simple things to eat and so our hosts directed us to a small corner store.  It was a nice walk because it was approaching 7:30 and the sun was just setting. When we got back to the apartment our CS hosts surprised us by offering us dinner. They gave us several suggestions for things to see the next day!

We had a bit of a lazy morning and then I had to be on two back-to-back E4C calls and so we didn’t leave the house until noon! We walked to the metro entrance and got a day pass so we could go wherever we wanted. Othy wanted to visit more universities and so we went first to the University of Montreal. It is actually situated on the Mont Real and the main building is very monumental. The ecole polytechnique is beside it. Although the building is quite nice (I remember visiting it on my 2A field trip), we couldn’t for the life of us find the graduate studies office. People kept directing us to different places until finally we were directed to the registrars office who told us to look online. I couldn’t believe that this is how a university would welcome someone who is visiting the campus! From there I was hoping that we could find a way to walk across the mount to the other side where there is a park, a church and McGill University, but there appeared to be no way across. So we descended the hill and took the subway around to the other side. We had more success finding our way around McGill and Othy found someone to  meet with and answer some questions. The campus was made up of some beautiful older stone and brick buildings.

Next we began walking towards the downtown and the waterfront. We came across the Rue St. Catharine which to me felt like the Yonge Street of Montreal. From there I took us on a route toward the water that had some nice parks. I really wanted to take us through the park that I remembered near the Palais de Congres, but was disappointed to find out that is now a construction site. The coloured glass of the Palais de Congres and the pink trees were the same as what I fondly remembered. From there we walked into the old town where the most historical buildings are located. They are beautiful and it felt like we were walking through a European city. By the time we got to the water we were pretty tired and so found our way back to the nearest subway to go back to the apartment. That night I cooked for everyone with food it the corner shop. I made gnocchi in a rose sauce that turned out well. We headed out pretty early the next morning because we had to move our car before nine and we also had a long journey ahead back to Toronto and then on to Beamsville! I also had plans to stop and show Othy a few special places along the way…. To be continued!

June 2, 2018

Othy’s Visit – Toronto

Othy and I had been planning for him to come visit since January, and now near the end of April he was finally able to come! It was an answer to prayer as the odds were against us and we had already pushed the tickets back twice. On Monday the 23rd I went to the airport to meet him. Seeing him when he came out (he was probably the last to come out from his flight) was such a surreal experience! I was almost pinching myself that he was actually there with me in the flesh! We took the TTC Rocket to Kipling Station where I arranged for Cam to pick us up. I had planned for us to visit Cam and Andrea because they were about to leave on vacation and I knew that Cam and Othy have similar passion for music. I was totally right because they had a blast playing music together for most of the afternoon and into the evening! They moved from instrument to instrument and I enjoyed watching them, singing along, or playing a bit of accoustic guitar. Through our conversations I actually learned a bit about electronic manipulation of sound, and the components of a drum kit! Because Andrea was delayed at work we went and picked up Swiss Chalet for dinner. The visit was short and sweet. Both Cam and Andrea brought us back to Kipling and we headed to Runnymede to meet up with Jeff who was waiting for us. Because it was already late, I left Othy with Jeff who would be hosting him for the next week.



The following day I took the bus and picked Othy up at Jeff’s place and we went back to my place. We hung out for most of the day doing work in the morning and watching a movie in the afternoon. In the evening I took him to visit Adam House for my last Bible Fun Time. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to everyone. We prayed together and they surprised me with a birthday/farewell cake! I am going to miss this community!


On Wednesday I did work on my screen in the morning and I met Othy at Keele Station in the early afternoon. I took him by my work and we also walked around and saw St. Lawrence Market and the Distillery District. In the evening we went on a double date with Andrew and Susan who proposed going to see the Leafs play their final game of round 1 in the playoffs. The bar they wanted to go to in the Junction was full and so I started calling random bars nearby and managed to reserve a table at the Bond Pub at Crossways. It was a pretty good spot with a clear view of the game! It was Othy’s first time watching a hockey game.




On Thursday I took Othy to meet up with a friend to talk about his experience co-founding a tech start-up. From there we went and had a fancy three course lunch at Terroni’s because PBAI/RSA had given me a $100 giftcard to share with Othy! We tried a little bit of everything including an octopus salad and squash ravioli (for old time’s sake) and it was delicious! In the afternoon I did some work on my screen and then we hosted small group in the evening. At the end the group made me all teary eyed while they prayed for me to send me off. My GG is another group I will miss profoundly!



On Friday we went to visit Philip’s office bright and early, said my farewells and showed Othy the space. From there we went to U of T to the computer science building and then afterwards walked around the campus passing some of my favourite new and old buildings. We even stopped into Robarts library which I had never visited and saw the rare books room. We went home for a short time, watched a bit of a movie, and then headed out to Burdock Brewery where I had invited several people to come and meet Othy and say a final goodbye.



Saturday was a bit of a work day for me as I was trying to finish my furniture screen project. Othy came by in the late morning and helped me a bit, and then in the afternoon Jeff came and took Othy to the ROM and to watch the baseball game at a bar.

On Sunday I went to church and met Othy there. After the service I went home and started packing. Othy soon joined me and helped me as I soon became overwhelmed with what had to be done! My friend Lucie also came by and helped me clean up my room and cooked us a Congolese dinner! Susan, Andrew and two of Othy’s acquaintances  joined us. It was kind of cool how this group of people who didn’t all know eachother came together to share a meal.

On Monday I continued packing, went and picked up the rental car for the following week, loaded up the car and we were off to part 2 of Othy’s visit and the beginning of my epic move! I had to drop off a few things before we left the city including a start-up kit of kitchen stuff for Adam House. I was super happy to run into Lana and Pamala! What a full and good week!