Archive for ‘Journal’

August 7, 2020

Paint Structure

Last month I designed an open-air steel structure where Othy was planning to produce paint for his business. The objectives were to cover the small triangular area completely, allow for sunlight and air to enter, allow for efficient storm-water run-off, and have the flexibility to be disassembled and remounted elsewhere if needed. Unfortunately it is looking like it won’t get built because Othy has found a more flexible space for future growth. I am still happy to have gained some more knowledge of costs and availability of steel in Kinshasa. It also gave me more practice working with Blender, an amazing open source modelling and rendering tool that I am appreciating more by the day.


Existing site condition

structure ortho_allbutfence-edited



July 29, 2020


Alanga is the Lingala name for the cooler season in Kinshasa. The temperature falls between 20-30 degrees instead of 30-35, it is often overcast, and there is very little rain. Early in the year it was the hot and rainy season and the river was very high and flooding some houses bordering the river. In contrast, now the river is at its lowest and areas normally under water are exposed. It has created a seasonal public space where people can walk out on the rocky and sandy riverbed. It is also an economic opportunity as many people go out and mine the rock. Unfortunately the low river has created stagnant pools that are a breeding ground for mosquitos. We are enjoying the more comfortable climate despite the rise in these unwanted visitors to our apartment! We have also enjoyed a few walks to the river.




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July 23, 2020

Moses at 5 Months

This month has seen many big changes! Moses is sleeping in his own room in a bigger crib and sleeping mostly through the night. He spends most of his time on his stomach (of his own accord!), and is rotating and army crawling trying to follow his toy ball or my foam roller. He was also showing so much interest in food that we decided to start feeding him solids. He makes funny faces at first but really enjoys it!




July 21, 2020

Protected: Your Fifth Month

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July 18, 2020

Cardboard Crib

One challenge about having a baby in Congo is that there isn’t a market for used stuff. I think that if we were in Canada we would have many used baby things thrown our way as friends and relatives declutter their homes post-having children. Or else we could look for used stuff on Craigslist, Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace. When looking at new cribs we found that the options are either cheaply made or super expensive (we need a middle ground option here like IKEA!). We chose a third option of designing a wood crib to get made, but because of the pandemic we had to post-pone our plans. But we have a growing baby that we can’t hit the pause button on and so I had the idea to design a temporary cardboard crib. I thought that even after he is done with it, we can use it as a play item.

The design uses a strategy of cuts and folds so that one single piece of cardboard can form one side of the crib with very little waste. Then I added internal reinforcing with layered cardboard on the inside of all of the junction points. I used the cardboard we had leftover from our freezer purchase, but only had enough for three sides. To still make it work we have the crib pushed up against the headboard of the bed. It will serve until Moses is able to pull himself to standing. I am very happy with the results! One change I would make is to add additional layers of cardboard on the inside of the top and bottom rung for additional lateral support. It took me a few weeks to make because I had to cut and score everything by hand (and I am a busy mom with many other things to do!), but if drafted in CAD the design could be laser cut in a matter of minutes.


Final result!


Sketch of flat sheet with cuts and scores (solid vs dotted lines)


Card mock-up

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July 9, 2020

Community Development with Architecture and Mapping

My blog has become home to many different lists because I find it is a convenient way to keep track of different things I want to remember and I like that I can constantly update them and other people can benefit from them. This list includes organizations, events, and resources that I have discovered related to community development with architecture and mapping. I have divided it into categories of Affordable and Sustainable Architecture, Focus on Earthen Architecture, Community Mapping and Upgrading, Engineering for Global Development, Events, and Online Resources. If there is a asterisk symbol beside it, it means I have experience with the organization, tool, or event, so that if you would like to know more about my experience, you can get in touch!

Affordable and Sustainable Architecture

Focus on Earthen Architecture

Community Mapping and Upgrading

  • Common Thread Global¬† – project assessment tool
  • *KoboToolBox – data collection – land rights – community engagement
  • Kounkuey Design Initiative – USA – Kenya – Sweden – global – multidisciplinary – community engagement and upgrading
  • mHS City Lab – India – community engagement and upgrading
  • *OpenDataKit – data collection – land rights – community engagement
  • *OpenStreetMap – global – open source vector map
  • *QGIS – open source GIS software – land rights
  • SDI (Know Your City) – community mapping and upgrading
  • Social Tenure Domain Model – plugin for QGIS – land rights
  • Spatial Collective – Kenya – data collection – community engagement – advocacy
  • UN Habitat – global – promotion – training – community upgrading – leadership development
  • Ushahidi – global – crowdsourced mapping and reporting

Engineering for Global Development


Online Resources



July 3, 2020

Cooking in Kinshasa

Now that I am in Kinshasa, the produce that is available is even more limited than it was in Kampala. I am learning to cook the standard Congolese fare, but I also like to change things up because experimenting and trying new things is what makes cooking fun. So I am learning new recipes with the foods that are available. Here is another list of recipes that I am building. Like my other lists, it will grow over time!


Amaranthus Potatoes Curry by I prepare this without the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and green chilly and it still turns out well.

Easy Pinto Beans from Scratch by This recipe has nice Mexican-inspired flavours.



Lemon Cake by I only prepared the cake part without frosting or filling and it was still delicious.

Pumpkin Bread by I prepared this without ground cloves and it was still delicious. I’m also not sure if what I used was technically a pumpkin, but the flavour and consistency is similar. Instead of canned pumpkin puree, I cut up the fresh pumpkin/squash, boiled it until tender, and then mashed it up.



Easy Homemade Bread Recipe by I have been baking two batches (4 loaves) every week since self-isolation began so that we don’t have to go out and buy bread every few days. It turns out every time!

Easy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds by I season it with curry and a dash of chili powder. This is now my go-to recipe whenever we have a pumpkin or squash since seeds are so healthy and I haven’t found seeds sold here.


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June 30, 2020

Moses at 4 Months

We started sleep training Moses this month though he doesn’t like daytime naps and always cries a bit because he doesn’t want to miss a thing! This month Moses goes through phases of being talkative and being quiet. He is starting to add consonants to his sounds and string sounds together a bit more. He is sitting up with less things propping him up, likes tummy time a bit more than before, and likes to stand while holding onto my knee. He is playing more with his toys, holding them with both hands, and testing them out with his mouth. He also has his first tooth coming in!





June 25, 2020

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May 29, 2020

Self-isolated in Kinshasa

About a month after Moses was born it was clear that the Coronavirus was going to become a worldwide pandemic. We made the decision to self-isolate in order to protect ourselves and others even before the government started taking actions. We are now at more than two months of self-isolation here in Kinshasa. Staying at home all of the time didn’t feel all that different to me because I was home caring for Moses. Othy was already working from home beforehand because our car had not yet arrived, but now he doesn’t go to town for meetings as he did quite regularly before via public transit. Now we are avoiding the public buses because people are always in very tight quarters. A few weeks after we started self isolating, the government decided to put the downtown neighbourhood, Gombe, in lockdown which has halted most business activities in the city. Although the downtown is closed, when we walk around our neighbourhood everything feels very normal; there are more children and groups of young people on the street because they are all home from school. The government made it a requirement to wear masks and so you find a good number of people wearing masks as you approach the busy main road. Most small vendors and shops are still open. We decided to purchase a freezer because we didn’t want to have to go to the market as regularly as before, and bought supplies to last us for a few weeks. I didn’t get to see what it was like at the market, but Augustin said that people are wearing masks and trying to sell their goods further apart; however, it is still busy and impossible to not be close to other people. Othy and Augustin hired a taxi to bring all of the food back. The first few days we had a lot of work sorting, cleaning, and blanching greens, chopping and cooking cabbage, and boiling ndizi (plantains) for freezing. Othy bought a huge bag of garlic that, after one month, started sprouting and so Augustin and I spent a over a week peeling garlic cloves to freeze. Although there was a lot of work those first few days, now cooking meals is faster. I am reminded of how fortunate we are to be able to stay inside and store some food. A large portion of the population in Kinshasa live hand-to-mouth and are likely struggling right now.

Outside of my time spent caring for Moses and doing things around the house, I have occupied myself with many activities that include sewing masks by hand for us to wear, designing a wedding photo book that is now ready to get printed, updating my portfolio and design website (still underway), and helping Othy prepare graphics for his start-ups (and peeling garlic of course!). I have also been trying to take advantage of the situation by having video chats with friends from Canada and elsewhere who are normally busier but are now stuck at home. Spring is usually a time full of celebrations including Easter, Mothers day, and many birthdays of friends and family. This year we didn’t do anything special for Easter. I watched Grace Toronto Church’s Easter sunday service online. For Mothers day I arranged a skype call with Mom, Al, and Jen which was really nice. For Othy and my birthdays we didn’t do much either. I cooked a chicken on Othy’s birthday and then for my birthday Othy spent the day fetching the car which finally arrived on the boat from Kisangani three months late! It was pretty special getting to open the big box of stuff that we had left in Kampala and brought in the car! The box had most of my exercise stuff like my yoga mat, dumbbells, stability ball, foam roller, and running shoes; my craft and drafting things; toiletries and some books. For Othy it was books, lots of shoes, his basketball and keyboard stand. We aren’t using the car much yet, but it will greatly simplify things and facilitate our work here. Market runs and other errands are much easier, especially if we need to take Moses along. Moses likes movement and so, as predicted, he seems to enjoy rides in the car! Othy is starting to go to meetings with select people and as soon as things open up again he will get going with setting up his paint business. We are hoping to get an office space soon because the power is out quite often at our apartment, even more so during this pandemic. It has made productivity difficult.

We have been frustrated that our projects are taking so much longer to get started than we had planned. I described it once on a call with friends that it feels like we are running a marathon and just before we are exhausted and approaching the finish line, it gets pushed back another 10km. We run those extra 10km, and then it gets pushed back another 10! And yet God is bringing us through this strange time and using the challenges to refine our character. I hope that we will look back on this time and tell Moses about how the world was turned upside down for a while after he was born, and that we saw the worst in people and also the best. I saw a poem enacted on Youtube that I really liked called The Great Realisation by Probably Tomfoolery. It is a bit idealistic but I do hope our world will learn and grow from the events of the last few months. I hope it will also give us perspective on the fight against global warming!



Prayer requests:


  • Moses is healthy and growing fast
  • My recovery was bumpy but I made it through!
  • We have a roof over our head and food to eat
  • The car arrived!


  • Pray that Covid transmission remains low here and pray for the people and families affected
  • Pray that people who are going hungry because they are unable to work be provided for
  • Pray for the security situation in North Kivu as attacks against civilians by rebel militia are still happening on a weekly basis but are now generally ignored by the media; pray that justice come to the perpetrators and peace return to the region
  • Pray for the ongoing efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic in North Kivu; the number of cases was zero but in mid-April, just three days before the end of the 42 day countdown, new cases came up; pray for healing and for the virus to be contained once and for all
  • Pray for Othy and I as we discern how to carefully move forward with work and projects
  • Pray for healing for me as I injured my lower back this week