Monday, December 19, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Christmas, 2005

Thank you for joining us for another episode in the Hillman Family Adventure series!

You’ll recall in previous episodes the Hillmans have explored the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with their intrepid relatives, participated in mass costumed rituals at Disneyland, and survived not one, but two, thrilling house fires and subsequent base camp relocations. This year promises to be the biggest yet! Join us now for Chapter 18: In which the Hillmans find themselves traveling to deepest, darkest Africa.
(OK, it’s not deep, whatever that means. It’s not even dark--since it’s on the equator, it’s pretty sunny most of the time. But it IS Africa!)

On January 31 the Hillmans—Mark, Carla, Cameron, Noah, and Ava—will leave Minneapolis for Arusha, Tanzania. Mark’s previous tours of duty as a teacher and principal made him the ideal candidate for developing and overseeing the operations of Peace House Foundations secondary school. Peace House Academy will open in January of 2007 and will be a home for students who have lost their parents to AIDs. Carla will be trading her stay-at-home mom status for volunteer coordinator, teacher trainer, and school support worker. The Hillman kids (Ava included) will transition to the local international school where they will enjoy small classes, hands-on learning, amazing field trips. and new friends from around the world.

We’ve invited the Hillmans to answer some questions from our reading audience about their upcoming adventures

Q: So…Africa! Wow! How long will you be gone?
A: We’ll be gone for at least three years—we hope things go well and that will stay longer!

Q: Where exactly are you going?
A: We’re going to be living in Arusha, Tanzania which is in the northeast corner of the country. The school is located on 130 acres about 3-4 miles from town and near the international school where the kids will be going. Arusha has approximately one million people. It’s located about 65 miles from Mount Kilimanjaro and sits on the edge of the Serengeti.

Q: What’s the weather like?
A: Actually, the weather is very nice. Arusha is at around 4,500 ft. in elevation so there are fewer mosquitoes (although malaria is an issue and we’ll be sleeping under mosquito nets). The day temps generally are in the mid-80s and the nights dip into the 50s, which will probably feel a bit chilly! The temperature and elevation are similar to where we grew up in Montana. There is a rainy season for several weeks and another shorter rain as well.

Q: So what will life be like for a suburban family there?
A: Well, we don’t really know! We will be renting a home in town until the school is finished, then we’ll move to a house on the school campus. The house will be smaller, certainly, than what we have now and all on one floor. Yes, we’ll have running water and electricity, although the electricity can have periods of inconsistency! We’ll be boiling what we need or using bottled water. We’ll have a car and phone and internet service, too. The food will be fresher and much simpler…the locals eat lots of rice, beans, and potatoes as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. There will be some big differences, too. There really aren’t supermarkets or stores, so we’ll shop at the local open air market. There are restaurants, but no movie theatres or entertainment of that sort. We’ll also have a housekeeper/cook and gardener/security guard. It’s expected that those who can afford it employ people to work. Friends have said that it’s a big adjustment to having someone work for you in your home! We really can’t fathom how our lives will change, but any challenges that we face will be more than outweighed by the blessings we’ll receive!

Q: How do the kids feel about the move?
A: Noah and Ava are very excited. Cameron is more worried, probably because he’s older and has a greater understanding of just how big this adventure is. They are all looking forward to the adventure aspects—exploring, animals, living “in the country”—and are interested in their new school, too.

Q: What about the language?
A: The national language is Kiswahili, and English is spoken by many people. We will be spending most of February at a Swahili language immersion program, while the kids take Swahili and learn about life in Africa. We’ll have a total of 10 weeks of intensive language training over the first 6-8 months which will give us a solid start to working with the language. Our goal is to be fluent Swahili speakers.

Q: How can we keep up with what’s happening?
A: We’ll have our regular (Minnesota) email through the end of January. After that, we can be reached at We want everyone to send us their email addresses so we can add them to our list for updates and news! Also, we do have a blog at where everyone can go to for news, pictures, and to leave comments. Obviously, leaving behind friends and family will be the hardest part of leaving. We have been blessed with so much support so far and will very much appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers as we make a new life in Tanzania!

Q: Is there anything else that our readers can do to help?
A: Many people have asked if they can help us in some way. We are blessed to be in salaried positions with PHF so we don’t have direct needs. However, the children of Tanzania do. We will be living in one of the 5 poorest countries in the world, where approximately 2,000,000 people have HIV/AIDs and where the life expectancy is only 45 years. Only 2% of the children are able to complete high school. Those whose families are hit by AIDs have little or no opportunity for a future. If you are able, please consider making a holiday donation to Peace House Foundation. On the website ( click on “make a contribution.” You can use paypal, credit cards, or send in your donation. It’s amazing how far American dollars go in a place like Tanzania—it really takes very little to make a very large difference in the life of a child.

Well, there you have it! Please drop us an email so we can add your address to the list. We would love to answer more questions and welcome visitors as always (although we can’t promise how much furniture we’ll have to sit on as the leave date approaches J)! Thank you to all who have offered their blessings and prayers. We will rely heavily on them in the coming months! We wish you a peaceful and blessed holiday season and a new year full of promise!

Mark, Carla, Cameron, Noah, and Ava Hillman

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire--William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Who are we?

Welcome to our safari adventure! We are Mark, Carla, Cameron (10), Noah (6), and Ava (3). In January we will be leaving our home in Minneapolis where we've lived for the past 18 years and heading to Arusha, Tanzania. We will be working with Peace House Foundation, a non-profit based in the Twin Cities, to operate a secondary school for AIDs orphans. Since neither of us has any international travel experience we feel like we're really heading off into the great unknown! Check in to see learn about our work and our lives as we head out and settle in.