Reports From The Field: Incubating The Body To Ignite The Mind
As part of our TDA Community News Initiative, last year we asked some of our field staff from around the world to send us an account on what life was like under lockdown in their part of the world. Now we are asking them to inform us about their current situation…
Esen Küçüktütüncü worked with TDA Global Cycling as Videographer on the 2018 West Africa en Vélo & 2019 Bamboo Road and was scheduled to join the 2020 Journey to the East.
I was learning Japanese last year around this time, meticulously looking up every city that we were going to visit on the Journey to the East Cycling Tour. I’ve already travelled around Korea (not on a bike though) but Japan has always been my dream. I guess it is for many people who are fascinated with distinctive cultures and unique traditions.
The delicate balance of expectation and reality sways our mood and affects the overall contentment in our life, a balance that was severely challenged with the COVID pandemic. Knowing the body of work that was created on the effects of confinement and travel restrictions that are applicable to anyone who made discovering new places a part of their life, I would like to talk about the courage this period has given me and the radical shift I’ve made within just a couple of months.
In my last blog I talked about my new hobby of bird watching, something that grew inside me slowly and came to occupy a good chunk of my day. Well, those periods of stillness and observation turned out to be just a beginning of the huge valley of curiosity I had within my mind.
You see, I have always been interested in biology and chemistry, doing experiments and creating projects for regional competitions. I’ve spent my adolescence aspiring to be a scientist. Then came physics, the subject that threw me off so badly that I ended up following the social sciences path in high school and eventually making my way to art school. This wasn’t odd, given that both my parents studied and eventually met in art school, with my mom studying fashion design and my dad aspiring to be a sculptor. Deciding to get married after school, my dad made the radical decision of changing his major to chemistry due to the doubts of “not being able to take care of his family as an artist”.
Documentary filmmaking has been the core of my life for more than 12 years now, starting with a short film I made about the civil war in Syria in my early years in high school, up until the many journeys I’ve had with TDA that changed my life and my views in many aspects. From my first tour, as a trainee on the Trans-Europa back in 2018, joining from Barcelona till the final stop Lisbon, to the last one, the Bamboo Road in 2019, 7020 kilometres of pure delight from Taipei to Singapore, behind everything was the urge to understand people and tell their stories.
I’ve spent the last year catching up with the sciences that I once loved. Opening the biology books once again, I felt like a little girl fascinated by the mysteries of cells, genes and nucleus. Countless hours of reading and researching, filling the gaps of my knowledge that were started long ago but left unkept, I discovered little strings of memories that I acquired during the cycling tours as references to the things explained in books. Cycling, being both a cognitive and physically demanding activity, was the perfect example of the relationship between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. All the camp nights, where you felt every muscle on your body talk to you (sometimes with joy but most of the time a little mean), and all the mornings that you woke up with a rush of serotonin flowing through your mind, feeling more alive than ever, the lactates and cannabinoids getting secreted with every breath you took.
Flash forward to today – I’m sitting in the Ciutadella Library in Barcelona writing this blog. After 2 years I’ve ended up in the city where everything started. The purpose is drastically different, as I’m doing my Masters in Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media and researching connectomic modelling of the brain. The first purchase I made since I moved here was a gravel bike with bike bags, spares and more. As of today, COVID restrictions do not allow me to leave the city of Barcelona, never mind the Catalonian region but I’m more than ready to hit the road whenever I’m allowed to!