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Commuter of Continents

Story and photos by Ebru Debbağ - edebbag@ortaanadolu.com
Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

The alarm clock goes off… It is 5:30am and the bedroom is dark… I linger for a few thoughts and roll myself over to the yoga mat on the floor. I have only half an hour to do my ab sequence and no time for reflecting on my inner self as a good yogi should. This will be purely physical; I have a continent to cross.

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

I leave home at 6:30am, just in time to hit the mounting traffic, and decide to take route A after checking the app on my phone that gives a peek of the highway. My morning buddies surround me in cars, mostly lonely early bird drivers, and we stare at each other through the windows imagining that we are the heroes of a story that has yet to be told. I envision myself as one of the 550,000 other ants on the road. It could be a cyber insect movie or like being transported between two different existences.

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

I snap back to reality with the buzzing of my phone. One of the other girls is awake and is feeding us the romantic details of her fresh, intercontinental love affair. It will amount to a lot of traveling, as well as feeble attempts to be on time when one engages in courtship across a bridge. I couldn’t stand the hassle, and therefore only date guys from the Asian side.

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

I text and drive and send some e-mails as the cars move slowly. I calculate that today will be an hour commute. The fog settles deeper as we move towards the sea like a snail-paced train. We are miniature creatures barely inching along; lost in our unspoken dreams… and we haven’t even made it to the bridge yet.

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

I remember the morning with the snow few weeks earlier when “crossing the bridge” was almost four hours and last week, returning home after partying late in Europe, when it took us only fifteen minutes. Anouar Brahem plays his dark, misty, oriental tune as I gradually approach Europe, the continent across from home.

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

As it passes, I momentarily eye the guy in the metro-bus, which is the Turkish invented metropolitan hybrid bus-looking vehicle that runs like a subway. It has its own track on the highway and moves fast and I feel a sudden flush of envy despite the comfort of my car. The metro-bus disappears into the distance.

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

It’s actually a big deal to beat each other on the cross over. There are bets as to who will get across the fastest among friends. I have not done it officially, however have kept score of my favorite lane on the road. I remain dedicated to the middle of the three lanes that lead into another world.

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Crossing over is a major topic of chitchat, and it even makes for an easy icebreaker between total strangers. Having lived here for over thirty years, I still find it amusing having a date on another continent or traveling to Europe for a coffee with friends. This is not just going to the office and coming back home.

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Once again I gasp at the scenery of the misty Bosporus that stretches between the two continents. It is a pristine beauty, and it’s no wonder that it takes my breath away every single time, which has been almost twice every day for the past thirty years of my life. That makes it an average of 21,900 days of commuting between East and West. I live through the seasons and sensations as I recognize the blossom of the trees in the spring, the darkness of the winter mornings and late afternoons, the heavy rain leaving the drivers motionless for hours, and the snow, although rare. It is a schizophrenic dilemma of feeling privileged to enjoy the differences of the two continents while facing the impossibly congested traffic, which is becoming the daily scene.

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

No matter what, it remains the best experience of moving between continents… the bridge is like a string of pearls on the neck of a noble, proud, perpetually-young lady who at times turns into the furious bitch spitting her venom on all those who are at her mercy… She has been exposed to empires, wars, glory, wealth and poverty… She has been longed for, drawn over and over by artists trying to unveil the beauty and the misery… She has been torn down, re-built, renovated and she still holds her head up in grace… I feel like another hero in her story; and, as the commuter of continents, I salute the Bosphorus once again as I drive into Europe on the six-kilometer road over the Marmara Sea between Europe and Asia.

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

Photo © Ebru Debbağ

 

4 Responses to “Commuter of Continents”

  1. ebru says:

    Thank you CBK for giving me the chance…I love the Turkish cover…

  2. […] ještě jeden působivý text – dojíždění do práce, do „jiného světa“ přes most z asijské části Istanbulu do …insiderky. Přestože mi tato každodenní činnost 550 000 Istanbulanů přijde jako šílenost a […]

  3. Giraffe Daily says:

    Thank you for this powerful article! Made me to feel some unique atmosphere of Istanbul which I probably will not ever feel as a mere visitor… And yes, I also admire all those commuters like you how you can survive this twice every day and not get insane..

  4. Serdar ÖZAYDINER says:

    Thanks and congratulations.. You have told an everyday routine in a very natural, simple and easy-to-read way. Istanbul is a very unique city straddling The Bosphorus and despite all its irritating features,I believe, it is a privilege to live in.