These days of Covid-19, I rarely leave the house. So, I thought I would share a different type of mobility tale from my days in the Middle East, when I lived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). My story today involves a travel adventure on a traditional boat ride along the Arabian Peninsula. Hope you enjoy this exciting tale from my memoir bank.
Ed, who managed both the Men and Women’s Colleges in Ras al Khaimah , finished up our monthly staff meeting. He ran a hand through his sparse white hair sending out the message, like us, he had had enough of being cooped up.
At nearly seven foot and lanky, Ed looked unassuming and yet he had no trouble leading. Perhaps because we could feel he was “one of us,” lover of golf, adventure and travel.” A man of few words, he held our monthly staff meetings to a minimum – strictly administrative details of necessity. Today, his blue eyes gleamed as he touted yet another cultural activity for the staff.
“Now don’t everyone sign up at once. Let the new staff go if you’ve been there before.” His face held that casual smile that let you know he appreciated his staff and was offering a gift to them. “This is a wonderful opportunity to explore the region. Several of you have four-wheel drives. If you don’t, find someone who does and pool a ride with them.”
I didn’t own a vehicle. Used to problem-solving for rides, my mind searched for a solution. The librarian at the Women’s college had a 4×4. She and her husband, who worked at the Men’s, might agree to take me. I would ask them right away.
“…headed to Dibba, where we’ll rent a traditional dhow. Be sure to take your swimming suits as we will drop anchor and let you snorkel or even scuba dive in the water. If you’re lucky,” his face crinkled into a lopsided smile, you’ll be able view a dolphin or two from the ship before we’re through.”
I caught my breath. Dolphins! Oh, I wanted to go.
As the meeting broke up, I searched for the librarian. I finally found her, and asked if she and her husband planned to go and if they had space in their vehicle for me.
“It is a nice excursion. Dibba is our Omani neighbor,” she explained as if the city were a friendly person who lived next door, “and is only a few hours from RAK.”
“That’s great,” I enthused, “I hope I can catch a ride.”
She pretended to take out a measuring tape to calculate my height and width. “Yes, you won’t take up much room. If we go, I’m sure we can find a place for you in the back seat.”
I smiled, noting I needed to have a back-up driver if they didn’t go. First step, sign up. That space was limited.
I made the list cut-off and the librarian and her husband decided to go. Could I be any luckier? Wednesday night, I gathered a backpack of necessities for the day-trip. Once ready, I had only to wake up early, throw on my swimsuit, a t-shirt and shorts to wear over it, grab my sunglasses and head out the door to wait for my ride.
On Thursday morning, the first day of the weekend in the Middle East, I stood outside my building straining to see the headlights of the promised vehicle. A quick toot-toot let me know my friends had arrived.
We met up with two other four-wheel drivers at the round-about leaving town. Pre-dawn darkness shrouded the landscape as our 3-vehicle caravan headed toward Dibba.
Janna looked over at John, her husband. “Do you know the turnoff for Musandam?”
“Relax, I’ve been there before,” he said.
Musandam. A peninsula. I knew little more than that Iran was to the north and to the south, the Gulf of Oman. We were headed to a place called the Strait of Hormuz.
As if reading my mind, Janna turned to me. “Did you know the Strait of Hormuz is a strategically important sea passage on the Persian Gulf? It’s the only passageway to the open ocean so be on the lookout. Often naval vessels from various countries can be seen in the distance.”
“Wow, no, I didn’t know that.” Riding with a librarian had its benefits.
The four-wheel drive jounced along then slowed. John shrugged a bony shoulder. “I’d much rather spot a frolicking dolphin in the waves.” He pulled the car to a stop. “This is us. Dibba.” He jumped out of the vehicle to consult with the other drivers while Janna and I stayed put inside near a large commercial dock.
Our small entourage fanned out as we stepped onto the flat wooden planks that made up the crude bed of our dhow–a traditional Arab sailing vessel. Several beams stuck out from the top of the dhow. They reached halfway across the deck, reminding me of a single set of ribs stretching out sideways from a smooth breastbone. The damp wood attested to the dhow’s seaworthiness. These beams would never be in port long enough to dry out. The sea called to the ship and the vessel answered its beckon.
A few men carried ice chests filled with food and beverages. Ed and his wife, Elizabeth, brought on snorkeling and scuba gear. I carried only my backpack with my towel, sandals and a book.
As we prepared for our sea journey, I took a seat on the starboard side. As we pulled out, the water gently lapped at the ship. How heavenly the sun felt on my bare arms. I would never tire of tropical climates. I leaned my head against the side of the boat and closed my eyes.
Janna gave my shoulder a small shake. “Amy, you’re missing some spectacular scenery.” I fought to open my eyes. Even under the protection of prescription sun glasses, the sun seemed to burn a hole through them to make my eyes water.
Once my eyes adjusted, I watched the huge rock mountains as they paraded into view on both sides of the dhow. The mountain range with its sharp angular lines appeared as if drawn with bold strokes of a child’s marker. The caves inside resembled heavily penciled dots.
The dhow stopped at Lima Rock, where divers and snorkelers prepared their gear. “Watch out for the current,” warned the Kiwi diver in our group, who pointed to surprisingly rough waters. “Stay on this side of the boat”
It hadn’t taken me long to pick up the expat lingo about our international colleagues. Kiwi– from New Zealand. Aussie – Australian. Scot and Brit seemed easy enough nationalities to match though. Tougher were sorting out the myriad of Arab and Eastern countries on the staff.
I contemplated this new phenomenon with the Math teacher, but then she and the Economic teacher decided to take a swim. I read a few pages of my book before turning it over and napping. At one point, I woke up long enough to throw a towel over my legs before closing my eyes again.
The tense voice of a Kiwi woke me from my pleasant slumber. “Someone is tugging on our emergency line!”
I sat up, and like others, turned to stare into the sea. In a short period of time, the sky had turned dark and the wind kicked up a notch. I didn’t see much. Tiny blobs. For all I knew, they could be seals. I observed as the New Zealander and a few of the other men jumped to action.
“Two females,” another confirmed. “We’ll pull ’em up here,” he said moving with lightning speed toward the rope. His voice infused calm. The rescue took only minutes and the women were pulled aboard.
“Than–Thank you for the leg up,” the first one said, ashen. “That current is wicked.”
The second woman coughed up seawater. Her eyes darted from person to person without recognition. ”Um, who … are you?”
After a few startled looks, someone laughed and the Kiwi, who had become our spokesperson while Ed was out scuba diving, grinned. “You’re safe, matey, but you’re on the wrong dhow, are ya?”
The two women blinked, sputtered and coughed as it became apparent that is what happened. We all eventually laughed. But the women did not test the water again.
With the rescue behind us, the mood turned lighter. When the sun came out, I must have closed my eyes and drifted off again.They flew open when the Kiwi cried out, “There’s someone else out there on the rocks and they’re tugging on the line!”
One of the divers said, “It’s Ed and his wife.”
Fear darted through me. Oh no! Not Ed and Elizabeth.
Had kind-hearted, affable Ed gotten more than he bargained on? An anxious murmur ran through the group. Cocky members grew silent. Talk became terse. Several staff hung over the side trying to catch a glimpse of where the couple could be stranded.
I recalled how Janna had said the Strait was situated in the open sea leading to the ocean. How could it be our invincible boss who did everything to make his expatriate staff welcome in their new workplace …was in danger? Elizabeth seemed the perfect seasoned partner. They went everywhere together. That day, after donning their scuba diving gear, they jumped right in the water.
I expected the rescue to go as quickly as the other had but it didn’t.
Squinting, I tried to locate them, but the wind whipped the water around in high waves, and I couldn’t see either one. The sky darkened even more and sudden huge drops of rain pelted our dhow.
“The line is broken!” someone shouted.
With a flurry of movement, the dhow crew tied on a thicker rope.
I heard cursing. But still no rescue. Hushed voices spoke. Tense words passed between both men and women as precious minutes ticked away.
“They’re drifting away from the rocks and into the sea!”
“What are we waiting for?” shouted the Math teacher.
“It’s been about thirty minutes since the first tug on the distress line. What the …? We need to catch up to ‘em.”
The two dhow drivers kicked the motor into high gear. They shouted back and forth in Arabic. Had they spotted Ed and Elizabeth?
The dhow circled out in wide arcs and drew close enough that a diver could throw out the thicker rope.
Everyone waited with bated breath.
Ed’s wife came first. Then Ed. Those on board burst into cheers.
Ed smiled, gave a half-wave and muttered, “Helluva current out there.”
An exchange of tales flew between the two parties. “We wondered for awhile if you saw us.”
“We’d a pulled ya in sooner but the damn line broke–”
Elizabeth interrupted, “Thank God, it did! As we drifted farther out, that rope wrapped around my wrist. It kept getting tighter and tighter, like a vise. It hurt like hell, it did. It was cutting off my circulation. I thought I might lose my limb.”
“No way.” A crowd leaned in to examine Elizabeth’s arm, cutting of any view I might have of it. I imagined the welts and bruises it must have. Would it need a doctor’s care?
“I’d have rather gone out to sea than go through that agony,” she said, angrily.
Someone handed her a towel, and a beer to Ed. He wrapped his arm around Elizabeth’s waist. “Glad that didn’t happen.” His eyes, which seemed a paler blue, still held gentle humor. They sat down and he took a long draught of beer. “I need this ‘bout now.”
I noticed he still wore his flippers. I guessed the rest of the gear had been pulled aboard upon their rescue.
After the hashed-out rescue, Ed looked quizzically at the two unknown women seated on the dhow.
“We’re the first rescue,” one woman volunteered. “We got back on the wrong dhow.”
Ed chuckled. “Don’t blame ya’ there.”
The rest of us had another good laugh at their expense.
They would find their party when we returned to the dock in Dibba. I could only guess at how worried their shipmates must have been. Surely someone here had thought to phone the women’s party on board the other dhow from their cell to advise them of the rescue.
Now that everyone was safe, we all turned to food—the great comforter in any crisis.
In late afternoon, with the dhow gently rocking in a placid area, I heard an Aussie faculty member call out, “Looky there, matey, after two rescues on this long crazy day, what do ya’ know, the sun’s shining and we got our dolphin.”
A dolphin? Where? Where!
I strained to see my first ever free dolphin. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see a thing.
But by the sounds of the ooohs and ahhhs of those who could, one must have been frolicking in the waves, after all.
5 Stars “…I’m not vision impaired. I don’t read non-fiction for enjoyment. I am not what some might consider the target market for this book, but I can tell you that I would recommend it to my own teenagers, my husband, my teenage students, and anyone else I know as a book of bravery, encouragement, motivation, testimony, and just as a pleasure read. Don’t pass it by: You will be blessed.”–An Amazon Reader
–An Amazon Reader
5 Stars“Living in the Power instead of the fear!”
Mobility Matters elegantly shares Amy Bovaird’s emotions and experience which anyone going through vision loss can identify with. The transformation as she overcomes her fear and the enemies voices that her loss of vision will now define who she is as a person and dictate the rest of her life, will inspire hope to each reader. Amy’s journey stepping out in faith and how the Lord’s Word gave her the strength to keep going, is a must read.
This book is not only for those going through the hallway of vision loss, but for each family member or any one who loves someone losing their vision would also benefit by reading.
Mobility Matters Stepping out in Faith has left me thinking I will now call canes power sticks!!!
Michael Benson, Founder
Visual Experience Foundation
4 Stars “…As a mobility specialist myself, I found this book of great interest to me for its subject matter. I was quite amazed that Amy could get around on her own with her genetic condition, particularly at night, since individuals with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) tend to lose their night vision and are using a cane at night much sooner than Amy was using any assistive device (even a bright light). Amy maintained her positive attitude, her faith and her sense of humour. If only we all could do that in times of crisis!” –Kathryn Svendsen, Mobility Specialist, Canada
5 Stars “Couldn’t stop reading until I finished. Very inspirational. Will definitely be looking for more by this author!” –Sharon Hannah
5 stars “…This book really inspired me. Amy’s outlook on life is what I would like to model in my own. Yes, going blind SUCKS but she took it to another level. She made it into an adventure and I needed to be reminded of that again. Her positive outlook on this all has really encouraged me in my current situation now. Taking the step of faith to move on forward and embrace life for what it is. I highly recommend purchasing this book! Be inspired, take a journey behind the life of someone with Usher, smile, laugh, and enjoy! –Andi Nicole
5 Stars “As a person who lives with chronic illness, I sometimes get bogged down with books on illness that feel really heavy. This one does not. Author Amy Bovaird, who is losing her sight, writes so well about her personal experiences, I feel like I’m walking alongside her as I read. I kept coming back to the story to see what happened–was she going to let fear stop her? Would she overcome?
The lessons Amy learns through her experiences apply to any of us who fear aging, illness, new symptoms, or really anyone who needs some inspiration, and that reminder that much can be accomplished if you step out and forward–even when you cannot see beyond that first step. I definitely enjoyed this book. –Kimberly Rae, Bestselling Author of the Stolen Series
Blog post review by Gillian Davis, RP Tunnel of Sight
One of the best books I have ever read about mobility and white cane use is called Mobility Matters: Stepping out in Faith by Amy Bovard. It is funny, poignant and packs a lot of tips and useful information. You can find it by following the link below to Amy’s web page and listen to a chapter before you buy, it is wonderful.