I looked over and saw the sweat running down Tony’s face. “Oh my god, he’s going to hurl,” is all I could think. I reached for the small green bag stuffed in the cup holder next to me and asked if he needed it. He just shook his head no as he took deep breaths in and out…slowly in…slowly out. We were only a few minutes away from escaping the stuffy, hot safari van that was driving us through the sand dunes in the Arabian Desert. We couldn’t open the windows as the blowing sand would have filled the vehicle in a matter of minutes. And the air conditioning was working more like a heater.
It had been twenty minutes at this point. Twenty minutes of sharp turns and steep inclines and sudden bumps…up and down, around and around. I was getting nauseous myself.
We came to a sudden stop and the doors opened. The breeze was heavenly. And the view was even more spectacular. There was nothing in sight except sand. Perfect sand, rolling hills of sand, the kind you see in the movies. Everyone rushed out of the vehicle, excited to stand in the sand as the sun set. I was crawling from the back of the van to the door, just to get some fresh air, when I noticed my mom pushing my wheelchair towards me. I looked at her and said, “Uh, I don’t think that’s going to work real well in the sand. I’ll just observe from here.” Wheels don’t usually do well with sand…
As I let the air cool my face and my spinning headache, I reached down with my toe to touch the sand. It was warm to the touch, and soft. I decided to go for it and just crawl through the sand. After all, a little sand in my clothes wasn’t the end of the world. I didn’t want to miss this experience. So I crawled a few yards through the sand and found a spot on top of one of the sand dunes. My loved ones were dancing through the sand, climbing up and down the dunes. It was a beautiful scene – people just taking in nature in its true, natural element.
I reached down with my hand and started to bury it deeper and deeper into the sand. The top was cool, and the deeper I went, the warmer it became. I imagined what true nomads, with their camels and backpacks, must go through on their adventures. Extremely hot temperatures when the sun was out, and near freezing as they slept. How different their lives must be from mine…
As the sun was setting quickly, we only had a few minutes to enjoy the sand dunes. And the closer the sun came to disappearing, the more the wind grabbed a hold of the sand and threw it in our faces. Since I was particularly low to the ground, the sand was hitting my eyes like bullets. I could barely keep them open as I struggled to get back to the van. But of course I did, and minutes later, we were on our way to dinner in the desert.
We arrived at the secluded “restaurant” in the desert. We parked in the sand and Matt had me hop on his back. The restaurant was outdoors, a buffet style, and there wasn’t a floor. Just the beautiful, soft sand. We walked slowly as it was quite a distance. About halfway, I asked him how he was doing. He said, “Fine. Except my toes hurt!”
“Your toes hurt?” I was confused…
“Yes, because I took my shoes off (due to the sand), the extra weight of you on my back is pushing on my feet and my toes aren’t strong enough to fight the sand.”
Who knew?! There wasn’t much I could do, but I did feel bad for his poor feet.
Dinner was just as complicated. The buffet line was on the other side of the venue, and it didn’t make sense for me to get my own plate of food. It was simply too far away and too sandy. Others in my group agreed to get me a plate of food. As I sat on the ground in the sand, alone, waiting as they filled their plates with food, my frustration peaked. I hate not being able to do things on my own, to be dependent upon someone else. And this was one of those times where I felt incapable. I felt trapped. I couldn’t move from my spot on the ground. Couldn’t go to the bathroom. Couldn’t get my own food. I felt like I was chained to the sand, forced to look at the table in front of me and miss out on everything going on around me.
My family and friends returned in a matter of minutes, and I could feel my frustration turning to anger. On almost all of my trips there comes a moment when I become so frustrated with something that limits me that I snap and anger comes pouring out of me. I’ve learned to sort out the feelings of frustration and not take them out on my travel companions. This was one of those times. I told myself to put these thoughts away until later in the night when I could sort through them alone. So we had a nice dinner, enjoying our final moments in the desert, but more importantly enjoying each other…and the most amazing sunset over golden sand dunes.