Archive for Sue Pietersen

Driving in Gabs

Gaborone had a very different road structure to Zimbabwe.

All of the roads were linked with round abouts ( we used to call them “circles”). We soon realised that over the weekends drunken drivers used to end up in the middle of these. Some of the roads were still dirt and very dusty. Often you would be driving along and have to give way to goats, chickens, cattle, donkeys and kids!

Driving in to most of the Hotels, in the city, you would have to go over a cattle grid. This was there to stop cattle and donkeys roaming onto the hotel grounds.

The first set of traffic lights (robots) had just been put in. This was also proving to be very challenging with the drivers.

Because of the layout of all of the roads it was quite easy to feel a bit lost, but if you kept going you usually ended up recognising where you were.

Watching the program -”The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” is exactly what it is like living in Botswana. This brings back some fantastic memories!

Vil started a new play group and was making lots of new friends. I also got to meet all the Mums and we were all having a great time.

Hughan was growing quickly and having to come along with us. He was very content and enjoying life.

Arriving in Gaborone

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There was great excitement for the whole family moving to Gaborone in Botswana.

When we first arrived in Gaborone, we stayed at Bemcoville. This was an expatriate compound where the employers of Bemco, Willem’s new company, lived.

It was very different from our house in Harare. Our house and Harare was a bungalow on an acre of land. We had our own swimming pool and Vil enjoyed having friends to play.

At our new house in Botswana, because it was communal, we had neighbours with young families that we could just meet up with on the grounds of the estate.

The swimming pool was a short distance from our house. Vil had a great time at the swimming pool with all the other children. This was a great way of meeting new friends.

When we arrived in Gaborone, because of was August, the weather was fairly warm. I always remember that the colder months don’t have and “r” in them. So winter starts in May and finishes in August and the summer starts in September and finishes in April.

I had my own car so I was able to get out and meet lots of new people. We settled in very quickly and we were made to feel very welcome. It was great having tea parties, Tupperware parties, playgroups, flower arranging classes, knitting groups and lots more excuses for get-togethers.

The days soon got hotter and hotter. Because of the heat the house were all air conditioned and so were all the shops. Everywhere with dry, hardly a blade of grass in sight and all the trees were thorn trees, because of the harsh climate.

Hughan was a very good little baby and was putting on weight and growing quickly. He seldom cried and was soon sleeping through the night and enjoying our outings during the day.

What a great new way of life!

The beginning…

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Hughan is now 24 and can hold a normal conversation on a mobile phone and because of this I have decided to share our ‘Diary’ notes with you from 1990. The first entry in our ‘Diary’ was 27 February 1990.

I am looking forward to starting the diary all over again and enabling you to follow the program that we went through which has enabled Hughan to lip read so well and learn to speak.

At the beginning of 1988, Willem, Vil and I were living in Harare in Zimbabwe. Willem and I were both enjoying our work. I was expecting our second child and because we had bought our house in Harare, this meant that I needed to work to help support paying off our mortgage.

Willem was reading the paper one day in bed and sat up and said “this is the job I want”. This was a job that was being advertised in Harare, for an accountant in Gaborone, in Botswana. We had always wanted to travel and work as ex-pats, so this sounded like a fantastic idea.

Willem applied for the job and he got it.

I stayed in Harare with Vil, while Willem started his new job in Gaborone. Willem was really enjoying his new job and we were looking forward to joining him.

Willem returned to Harare for the birth of our son. Hughan was born in August 1988. After spending the first 10 days in Harare, saying goodbye to friends and family, we all left to go and live in Botswana.

Living in Botswana was great fun and you can only work if you have a work permit. This meant that I was not allowed to work which was wonderful as I could spend time with the boys. We got to make lots of new friends and we all thoroughly enjoyed living in Botswana.

At this stage in Hughan’s life, we were unaware that he was profoundly deaf. We are also unsure if he was born deaf. He had an unusually high pitch to his cry, which may be an indication that he was.

Moving to Botswana was a very vital part to the jigsaw of the decisions that we made, which have helped Hughan achieved so much with his speech, and learning how to hear.

This was the start of our journey.

Hughan’s Diary – Carel du Toit Centre

Hughan’s Diary, an introduction into the journey we have been on with our profoundly deaf son!

23 years ago we were faced with making many decisions, that have been the most incredible roller coaster in our lives.

We have never been content with the first opinion we were given. We were exposed to this very early on, in the initial diagnosis of our son Hughan’s deafness.

I am going to be following the daily diaries we kept, during the time we lived in Botswana 21 years ago and having to travel to Cape Town, to the Centre, that has proved to be the most critical decision of all.

Every little decision we have made as a family, has had a major impact on how Hughan talks, he can now talk on a telephone. I find it still incredible that I can phone him up on his mobile and have a normal conversation with him.

From being diagnosed profoundly deaf with 110 decibel loss of hearing and being told that not even hearing aids would benefit him,

to this, 21 years later…

When I turned 50 I realised that I needed to put pen to paper to document how Hughan has achieved what he has, in case another member of our family has a deaf child.

Then I soon realised that this information may help other parents facing the same decisions as us. So I decided to start writing a book.

Being brought up in Africa and feeling so privileged to have done so, I then decided it was pay me back time. So some of the proceeds from my book will go to raise money for the deaf children in Africa.

Because we were living in Botswana and we had to travel to Cape Town in South Africa, meant that we were living a long way from the Centre we had chosen to work with. I was encouraged to write down each day what Hughan and I had done together, so that the Centre could keep an eye on our progress.

So I started a Diary and took photos of activities we did. This proved to be vital for us to be able to look back just a few months and see what progress had been made. This was very encouraging.

Every few months we travelled back to the Centre in Cape Town and we were taught the next steps. These steps were very slight each time, but proved to be the success to out program.

A video recording was done during each return visit back to the Centre from Botswana every 3 months and we have all of these copies to share with you in our ‘Diary notes.

We took Hughan back to the Carel du Toit Centre in Cape Town in 2010, to meet everyone who had worked with him, as he was learning his lip reading skills and how to talk. This was fantastic for everyone to meet Hughan after so many years. It also gave Hughan the chance to meet the people who have played such a major part in him learning how to talk.

We also returned to the Centre again in 2011 to celebrate 25 years of the Cochlear Implant.

I look forward to your comments and hearing from you along the way.