Last month, Simon and I signed up to participate in a desert cleanup in Ras al-Khaimah with Almost 4x4, an off-roading group that we had yet to meet.
It seemed like no big deal, just a couple dozen SUV owners meeting in a parking lot then driving into the desert and picking up some trash. We planned to spend a few hours volunteering, eat dinner with the other cleaners, then go camping.
Before we got out of the car, I showed Simon this video on the iPad and I could NOT stop laughing, which made the funny situation we had walked into even funnier to me.
Or, as Simon put it, I was “hysterical”.
About the situation we had walked into…
It was not, as we thought, a casual meeting spot for dune bashers slash trash picker-upers.
What it was, you see, was a publicity stunt. A stunt I say!
This wasn’t apparent right away, because at first it just seemed like a community volunteering event that the Almost 4x4 group was taking part in.
We were not given instructions by anyone, so we started asking around to see who we should check in with. We found one of the group leaders and he seemed very confused when we told him this was our first event with the group. Another group member was also surprised when we asked him questions about what we should be doing. The conversation went like this:
Him: “You’ve never been before???”
Me: “No! *laughing hysterically still* Do you know everyone else that is here?”
Him: “Well, yeah.”
Me: “Then how do you not realize that you don’t know us, and that we must be new?”
Me: *still laughing*
The reactions to our dog also contributed to my hysterical laughter. One group of guys ended up backing away from Beesly until most of them were pressed against an SUV.
(See the buff guy in the hat? I met him before- in a pet shop in Jumeriah. I was petting a puppy and letting it bite my fingers. That buff guy came up to me and asked if he was allowed to do it too. I told him I didn’t work there. He said he knew, he just wanted to know if it was safe to touch the puppy like I was. I encouraged him to pet the puppy and assured him that the biting didn’t hurt. He seemed skeptical, but slowly moved his hand towards the cage. At the last minute, he yanked his hand away and giggled. It was the same reaction I’d have if I were attempting to pet a tarantula.
When I saw him at the desert clean up, I did not remind him that we met before. I thought “Remember me? I met you in a pet shop and you ran off because you were too afraid to touch that puppy?” might embarrass him in front of his friends… But now I realize they probably would have been like “Dude, we totally understand.”)
Not all reactions to Beesly were negative though! Although I think Beesly may have wished they were:
These two brave guys pet Beesly briefly. When they walked away, the one on the left told the one on the right that he looked like a dog… which of course made me laugh even more.
Eventually we were given orange vests and posed for a group picture.
(That kid behind me disapproves of something.)
Then we waited around some more. We took pictures of a police officer that was oblivious to the fact that an empty water bottle fell out of his SUV and onto the road. So by that point, not only had no one picked up any trash, but we actually witnessed trash being added to the desert.
After hours of standing around, Simon started to express concern that we would not have enough daylight left to find a camping spot and set up camp. And, of course, that’s right when the convoy of SUV’s started to actually MOVE.
The size of the convoy was ridiculous! There were police SUV’s, ambulances, and news crews.
And there were plenty of spectators.
Just as it started to seem like we were actually headed into the desert,
the convoy stopped.
We briefly talked about just leaving, but then imagined an incident happening where we were pronounced “Missing in the Desert” by the guy who took Simon’s name in the parking lot full of dog-phobic men.
So, instead, Simon went and told somebody that we had to go. And I said that to make up for our lack of cleaning up anything, we’d pick up trash around our camp site.
We started setting up camp just as it started to get dark.
We didn’t really have any food to cook for dinner since we were supposed to eat with the volunteer group, so I started cooking sausages, bacon, and mushrooms (meant for breakfast) over the fire while Simon finished setting up camp.
Soon it was dark. I was standing over the grill flipping slices of bacon, and asked Simon to hold the flashlight on the food so I could see what I was doing. He shined the light in idiotic ways that made me say things like “I CANNOT SEE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”. So he crouched down next to the fire.
I was muttering “Geez, you didn’t have to get out of your chair, just shine the light in a reasonable way!” when he said “Sheryn.” I was still looking at the food and said “Oh god, what did I do? Drop a sausage in the fire? Burn something?” Simon didn’t respond, so I turned to look at him.
He was on one knee, holding the tiny flashlight on a ring box.
He asked me to marry him.
I said yes.
And so we were betrothed!
We enjoyed our first meal as an engaged couple. A “Ron Swanson Dinner”, as Simon called it.
Then we woke up and spent a nice day in Oman…
…although I was really itching to get back to the UAE (where my cell phone works) so I could call my family.
But then we saw this goat, and I stopped being impatient.
As for the “cleaning up” bit, I did follow through on my word and pick up trash around our campsite, including this burlap-y barley bag:
which I obviously took home and framed.
My fiancé hung it on our wall.
As for the ring…
Simon did good.
I love him.
(I’m referring to my fiancé, if that wasn’t clear.)