Dawn Doig (nee Young), author of children’s books, currently lives in Cameroon. Hailing from Victoria, BC, her life abroad began in 1997, when she went as an audiologist to Vietnam (she has a Master’s degree in Human Communication Disorders from Dalhousie and a more recent M.Ed in English as an Additional Language). From there, she went with her children to Kuwait, where she wrote, And So, Ahmed Hears. For eight years she worked in audiology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Before she left Riyadh, she published a cookbook, Just Frickin’ Bake It (2013). Then she switched to teaching, this time following her husband (who’d been the trailing spouse) to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Since the switch, she has been prolific in her illustrated publications: Go Away, Shawn (2017), Petra Pencil Pines for Pizza (2017), E El Gi Piddr (2018), Melvin Fastidious the Sailor (2019), Wadee and the Worry Wakes (2019) and Kydee (2019), all with Pen It! Publications. She writes from Yaoundé, Cameroon.
I am suddenly awakened from my peaceful slumber by a BOOM. I make my way to the window, push the curtain aside and peer out into the darkness. I can hear a gentle rumble in the distance. It gets louder, then BOOM again. The night sky is illuminated by lightning bolts zigzagging down from the heavens. Then, as if an invisible hand has reached up and unzipped them, the clouds open up and unleash their contents in a torrential downpour that lasts for hours. These are the rains in Cameroon. They come without warning. One minute it can be a warm, sunny day and the next, a waterfall cascades from the clouds as small children leave school shielding their heads with their black slates and pedestrians run for cover under trees or beneath store awnings. “I bless the rains down in Africa…” plays softly in my head as I curl back under the covers and doze until the alarm buzzes.
After a year in Yaoundé, I am still amused by the sight of a shoe vendor with a running shoe perched on top of his head as he saunters down the road holding eight more pairs of shoes while the lone companion of the one atop his head dangles from his arms. A motorcycle zips past us as my husband manoeuvres our car through the busy streets en route to school, two pig carcasses wrapped in banana leaves strapped to the back of the bike, their legs flopping in the air as the bike hits a pothole in the road. A woman with a baby secured to her back sits at the side of the road sorting peanuts on a metal platter and scoops them into an empty Coke bottle. Nearby, a man urinates. Out of nowhere, a banged-up taxi, its fender hanging, its side mirrors shattered, the front windshield a labyrinth of cracks, and the trunk, back seat and roof laden with overflowing sacks of onions, pushes to the front of the line of traffic and almost side-swipes us as it swerves to miss a cow in the middle of the busy intersection. This is daily life in Cameroon.
After a busy day at school, back at the “Barbie house” — a term coined by a colleague to describe the bright pink apartment building that houses most of the expatriate staff of the American School of Yaoundé (ASOY) — I sigh with relief as we pull into the underground parking, having survived another hazardous commute. Sitting at the dining room table looking out at the hills of green, or settled comfortably on my bed, the mosquito netting gently swaying in the air conditioning, two contented kitties curled up near my feet, I write. Many of my stories, inspired by the children I have worked with as an audiologist and teacher, family, friends, and general life experiences, come to me in dreams. I remember the three- and four-year old children sitting criss-cross applesauce on the carpet of the school library, squealing with delight as I read Kydee, and those giggles make every word worth it.
When we wed in 1987, my husband and I had no idea of the adventures that lay ahead: a journey through deserts with sand dunes, veiled ladies, camels, and wadees; travels around the globe on trains, planes, quads, horseback, and dogsleds; hikes along ancient walls that whisper tales from long ago, treks down trails the Incas walked, and climbing up cheesecake stairs through castle towers; nights spent in haunted castles, on cots under the stars at the edge of the world, dining in treetops; cycling down Death Road, boating in the mist of thundering waterfalls, crawling into the shelter of an igloo in the far north. A humanitarian trip to Vietnam in 1997 as a young audiologist was the catalyst for future decisions to seek employment overseas. I had been bitten by the wanderlust bug and my travelling DNA had been set in motion. My husband is an educator, flexible in what he is able and willing to teach, who followed me for 23 years in my career as an audiologist that took us to the far north of Canada and to Kuwait, England, and Saudi Arabia. In 2015, I completed a second master’s degree in teaching English as an Additional Language, which has made international employment easier for us to secure now as a teaching couple. Who knows where the wind will blow us to next…
- Review of Kydee on Goodreads.
- Dawn writes about her books on Dalhousie University site.
- Pen It! Publications