|It just might be the littlest beach in Abu Dhabi.|
A few days ago, I rode my regular Zayed Grand Mosque bicycle route. It was breezy, due to the shamal, a northwesterly wind that blows over Iraq and across the Gulf, bringing airborne sand, reducing visibility and breathability, and lifting plastic bags and other trash into the air. So I elected to make it a relatively short 45-minute ride.
|The workers' standard greeting is not "Hello."|
It's "How are you?"
On the way back after the turnaround, I decided to stop at the Maqtaa Bridge, drink some water, and observe the current running under the bridges – where I was swirling around on my SUP in last year’s blog story, Caught at Maqtaa Bridge. As I sat there looking at the little beach before me, I couldn't help but notice the trash. Water bottles, food containers, and plastic bags, all left by workers who come there to relax, eat, and fish. And birds, picking their way around. Much of the trash had been blown up against the fence by the shamal, so that the end of the little beach was acting like a sink, collecting refuse.
|Maqtaa Tower and Zayed Bridge. A great place to contemplate life, gazing at old and new.|
Apparently I was being watched.
|A view from the water, on my board. The little beach is on the right.|
He picked up my two bags of trash. “Thank you," he said. "Thank you." I had been planning to take the trash with me on my bicycle to the next debris box along the route. “Where are you from?” he asked. “USA,” I said, “and, you're welcome. And thank you for taking the trash.” I pointed at the beach. “What a mess!” He nodded, then shook his head. What can they do? He thanked me again and drove off, circling around and honking and waving as he passed by again.
As I got on my bike to ride home, I felt great. A few moments later, I saw something I had never seen before – about a hundred guys exercising on steps. I was in such a good mood that I waved and called out the Arabic greeting, “Salaam alaikum!” (Peace to you.) And they called back, with a chorus of “Alaikum salaam!” And there was a lot of surprised laughter.
It felt good to tell the soldier that I’m American, and I think my little cleanup gesture made a good impression on him. It helps to be on good terms when you cruise their neighborhood regularly. So I've decided to adopt that little beach, and every time I ride there, I'll check for trash to pick up. I’m doing it for myself, because I miss working in my yard in Nevada, and for the birds and the fish. And I’m doing it so that I can feel like I’m giving something, however small, back to Abu Dhabi.