30 years ago…We were living in Gaborone, Botswana, which is on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. We were in the middle of the summer months and the weather was extremely hot with temperatures sometimes reaching over 40°C. Occasionally we would see stormy clouds in the sky and wonder if we would be lucky enough to have some rain that day.
The storms were quite frightening with extreme winds sometimes before a storm. I can remember leaving windows open at the house and because of the dryness there was so much dust being forced in the winds that this would cause a dust storm. Everything got covered in dust. You soon learnt to close your windows as the whole house needed dusting.
There were extreme flashes of lightning and loud cracks of thunder as the storms got closer. We always had a theory that for every four seconds you counted, between the flash of lightning and the loud cracks of thunder, was the equivalent to the storm being a mile away. So as the flashes of lightning came, you would count down and work out roughly how far away the storm was while you waited to hear the thunder. The storm could be there one min and gone the next and occasionally this caused flash floods.
There was always great excitement when the storms were near and we would look out the window and watched the rain pelting down outside. Sometimes it even hailed which could be quite frightening. Jamie used to get very excited when it rained and we would often put a bucket outside to collect rainwater. He had his gum boots and after the rains have passed he would enjoy paddling in the puddles of water.
After the storms had passed by green shoots of grass would appear in the countryside and all the Thorn trees would get their green foliage.
Hughan never seemed to be worried or frightened by the loud cracks of thunder and was generally a very happy baby. I would take him for his regular checkups to get weighed in Gaborone. He had had all of his baby injections locally and the clinic was really happy with his progress.
30 years ago in 1989…Driving on the roads in Gaborone was a completely different experience to what we were used to in Zimbabwe.
All of the roads were linked with round abouts ( we used to call these “circles”). We soon realised that over the weekends drunken drivers used to end up in the middle of them. 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. These were there to stop cattle and donkeys roaming onto the hotel grounds and eating the lush grass that had been watered.
The first set of traffic lights (robots) had just been put in. These were 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.
Jamie had started a 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. He was always very content and enjoying life. We were still unaware he couldn’t hear us.
30 years ago…our youngest son Hughan was usually a happy, content, babbling baby and seemed to be responding to us when we spoke. We were totally unaware he might not be hearing us at this stage.
One afternoon I had been at home with both of the boys. Hughan became quite restless and seemed to have flushed cheeks. I thought he was probably teething so I gave him some Calpol (a liquid form of paracetamol), which usually helped.
Within a short time he became more and more restless and all of a sudden had an excruciating cry, almost frantic. It was as if something was pinching him. I could not find anything wrong with him and felt totally helpless and finding it hard to calm him in any way.
I phoned our doctors surgery in Gaborone and they had already closed for the day. I managed to get through to my doctor at her home and she was happy for me to take Hughan to see her.
Hughan had become exhausted from crying and had started to calm down. The Doctor gave him a complete check over. He had a high temperature, but other than that she could not find anything specifically wrong with him. I was to go back home and see the doctor the following day if he continued to cry and be restless.
When we got back home Hughan fell asleep from exhaustion and slept soundly over night. The following day he seemed much happier and there was no need for me to go back and see the doctor.
We never found out what caused Hughan to have such an excruciating cry that day, or whether this might have contributed towards his hearing loss that was eventually diagnosed months later.
30 years ago…In March 1989, we had already been living in Gaborone in Botswana 7 months, and still totally unaware Hughan couldn’t hear us. He was a happy, content baby and seldom cried.
Life in Gaborone was very different from living in Harare, Zimbabwe. The weather was much hotter, so all the houses and shops were air-conditioned.
Our home in Harare had a walled garden, on nearly and acre of ground, and had its own swimming pool. In Gaborone we lived in a place called ‘Bemcoville’, which was an expatriate compound where the employers of Bemco, Willem’s new company, lived.
Bemcoville was a complex of small semi-detached homes, situated on a large piece of ground with a high wall around it. There was a security guard at the entrance, where you had to give your identity and reason for entering the complex.
All the residence were young families and we each had our own small garden. Within the complex there was a playground, swimming pool and tennis court, so there was always someone about and a great way of meeting people and make friends.
We had all settled in very quickly and feeling quite at home.
To work in Gaborone you had to have a work permit, so most of the Mums stayed at home with the children. This was great, as we used to all meet up for tea parties, playgroups and lots more excuses for get-togethers.
Willem had just received a promotion, so we would soon be moving into a house closer to Gaborone city centre.
30 years ago…In March 1989 we were totally unaware that our youngest son Hughan was profoundly deaf and unable to hear us. He was a happy content baby.
We have been on an incredible journey with him, teaching him his lip-reading and communication skills, where he has overcome his challenges and can even hold a conversation on a phone.
Luckily we kept a ‘Diary’ from February 1990 which I will be sharing with you.
At the time we were living in Gaborone in Botswana and it was exciting time for us, as we had recently moved from Zimbabwe where our two sons, Jamie and Hughan, were born. Hughan was already 7 months old and growing fast.
My husband, Willem, had just started an ex-patriot contract at Kalahari Ford and we were enjoying our new life in Gabs.This was quite a critical move for us at the time, as it meant we were in a better financial position, so I didn’t have to work and could spend quality time at home with our children.
Gaborone is situated on the edge of the Kalahari desert. We had arrived at the beginning of the hot summer with scorching heat. The city had just got its first set of traffic lights and often you would be giving way to donkeys, chickens, goats, cattle and children.
In Gaborone there were no Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists (ENT) or Paediatricians for the children’s check ups, so we had to travel through to Johannesburg in South Africa (four hours away) for these appointments. Hearing tests were also not available yet for children at birth.
At the time there was no technology to find information, there were no home computers with internet and Google, and mobile phones hadn’t been invented yet.