Berlin-Barcelona, Washington-Cagliari, Larnaca-Taranto. Chapter 1.

Evelyn Amaral Garcia
10 min readApr 25

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A month in my life.

As my four readers know, (as Alessandro Manzoni wrote, but I am more humble and say four and not twenty-five) as a volunteer I transport organs from the hospitals of living, voluntary donors to the patients, often on the other side of the world. You can read my article on the subject here. My journeys are filled with the books I read, the books I listen to when I go running, the work I do remotely in airports, hotels, co-working spaces and bars, but first and foremost the people I talk to. And those I think of: the donor and the patient, two strangers living at opposite ends of the world whose destinies and genetic material will be forever united.

In these three posts, I would like to tell my four readers about special moments from three missions I carried out all in a single month of a particular year. Of course, I can’t share the specifics because the routes of our transports are kept strictly secret.

Larnaca sunset

1. Berlin, Germany — Barcelona, Spain

Day 1:

I wake up at 3 am in Italy, I go by taxi to the airport. I always travel at night, moving in the shadows to be able to work by day. My unsuspecting clients in calls say to me “How strange, your background always changes”. We board the plane, it starts to taxi down the runway. Then they realise something is wrong. The plane turns back, they make us wait an hour and then they have us disembark to check a possibly broken part of the plane. All the passengers comment that they would never get back on the plane, even if the problem is fixed. I laugh, remembering Phoebe in Friends, in the episode where she tells everyone that the plane’s phalanges are broken. Nobody wants to take the plane anymore in the episode, even though phalanges are the bones of the fingers and not part of any plane! It was just a ruse on the part of Phoebe. Humans are funny creatures and irrational fears are very contagious.

I am supposed to travel from Bologna to Berlin, via Munich, but I ask to change my itinerary to Bologna- Frankfurt- Berlin. The flight crew cannot change my ticket because it is not yet known whether the flight to Munich will be cancelled, but since I am on a mission and angels always help with missions, the captain of the plane backs me up and orders them to change my ticket. After an hour they cancel the Bologna-Munich flight. I get a few hours’ work done at the airport and then catch the two planes. During the flights, I finish reading Memories of My Melancholy Whores, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a very well-written, disgusting and disturbing biography of a 90-year-old paedophile. Speaking of paedophiles, everyone always quotes Lolita (without having read it) but Marquez is much worse, in all his books.

We land and I am very worried about not arriving in time at the hotel to make a call with an important client. Another angel pops up, Wanda. A very elegant and energetic lady, with bright red lipstick, a Ferrari dealer in Germany. While we are waiting to disembark, she asks me ‘You were on the flight from Bologna, weren’t you? Are you late too? Where are you going? Because I have a private taxi waiting for me as soon as I get off which will take us straight to the centre of Berlin. It’s already booked, why not take advantage of it for two people?” I accept gratefully. Arriving in Berlin, Wanda refuses to let me share the cost of the 70-euro ride and pays for it herself. I continue by taxi to the hotel and manage to make my call. I work late into the evening to catch up on the time lost on the plane, I treat myself to a massage at the hotel spa. I dine horribly at ‘Five Guys’, the only restaurant nearby still open late at night near Alexanderplatz. I throw away half the meal because it is inedible. Still hungry, I go back to the hotel, send the documents to be printed for the mission to reception and set my alarm for 6 am.

Berlin Sunrise

Day 2:

Today is not a work day, it’s a transport day. I wake up, get ready, shower, pack my bag, and set the datalogger on the computer. The data logger is the device we use to record the temperature of the marrow during transport. These records will then be sent to the hospitals. I am ready to go to the hospital, I look at the time. It is not seven o’clock; it is four AM. I forgot to turn off the alarm from the night before, like an idiot. I go back to sleep, wake up at half past six, and glad that I had accidentally prepared myself hours before, I go out. In Berlin, no café opens until eight o’clock, the time I arrive at the hospital. I wonder how they have breakfast, or what time they start working. At the hospital, the doctors offer me coffee and give me the marrow. We sign the documents and I go to the airport by bus, metro and train. By now I am starving.

As I am trying to figure out which platform my train leaves from, a lady with a dazzling smile appears and starts talking to me. We find the platform and while we are waiting for the train she starts telling me the story of her life. She is from Ghana. When she was pregnant with her first child, she and her husband made the crossing to Europe on a small migrant boat full of people. The boat was about to sink, but they were rescued in Lampedusa by some Italians and then sent to a migrant centre near Bologna, Italy. “Weren’t you afraid to make the crossing pregnant and weren’t you scared to death when the boat was about to sink?” “Not at all,” she replies with a huge smile. Her first son was born in Italy, and once all the documents were ready, they came to Germany, where her second son was born. She shows me the photos of two adorable, joyful creatures with the same dazzling smile as their mother. She tells me that the Italians were wonderful to them and that her eldest son always asks to go to Italy because they left their hearts there. Only there was no work. In Germany, she now works in an airport shop. I ask her if her husband treats them well. “He is wonderful” she replies, smiling sweetly again. We arrive, I say goodbye and go through security.

My organ obviously cannot be exposed to x-rays so the police keep me for an hour asking for documents and ministerial permissions, calling hospitals and asking for the details of the transport. An angry security guard throws away all my expensive bottles of shampoo and various creams of less than 100ml each, saying that only one can be carried. Crossing borders again and again, I obviously know it’s not true, but I let it all go and swallow my anger without saying a word. I am on a mission to save a Spanish child, and no distractions or battles against windmills are allowed. Ubi maior, minor cessat.

On the flight, I start Bob Woodward’s book, ‘Bush at War’, which confirms to me that even at the highest levels and in the most extreme situations, human beings continue to be highly imperfect and act haphazardly, remaining slaves to pre-existing, set patterns and their own greediness.

I have a stopover in Munich, fly to Barcelona and rush by taxi to what we in the Nucleo Operativo di Protezione Civile call the ‘Garage’, the largest blood and tissue bank in Catalonia, located in an innocent-looking garage. We often deliver to and from there. Everything is then distributed to the various hospitals via the many ambulances parked there.

Spain stands out worldwide in the fight against leukaemia thanks to the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute (IJC), one of the few centres in the world exclusively dedicated to leukaemia and other oncological diseases of the blood, and thanks to REDMO, the Spanish Bone Marrow Donors Registry. When we organ transporters were travelling the length and breadth of the world on empty planes during the pandemic while you were all in lockdown, the majority of missions took us to deliver in Spain. This is because, while the rest of the world prioritised Covid and stopped life-saving transplants and other urgent treatments, and while certain countries like Argentina and Israel painfully closed their borders even to life-saving transports, the Carreras Foundation worked tirelessly to continue saving lives from international donors even in the midst of the pandemic.

BCN

In the evening I go out to eat ramen at an event I organised on Couchsurfing in Barcelona, where total strangers show up to share a meal. The Couchsurfers I meet are a Brazilian who offers me copious saké and after insistent probing, admits to having South Korean parents, a Russian deserter living in Serbia, a digital nomad from Argentina who has just moved to Spain. I ask the poor deserter, R who might have just wanted to eat in peace, a billion questions.

In order to avoid having to go into combat R underwent medical tests for several years in which he complained (falsely) of back pain, so that once the call to arms came he could present his certificates of continuous, long-term examinations. These visits took a lot of time and money, a ruse that many would have thought of. He tells me that Russian citizens are bombarded with a constant stream of dualistic rhetoric by the Russian propaganda machine, which presents the decadent, confused West, focused on LGBT rights, as diametrically opposed to (the Holy Mother/the sacred Fatherland of) Russia founded on sound principles and traditional families. I will never understand how it’s anyone’s business who you sleep with.

If anyone dares to speak up against the war, they automatically end up in jail. With many dissident voices being silenced, members of the older generation- even if they are not inherently bad people — find it hard to detach themselves from what the tv propaganda wants them to believe. In fact, even though R’s mother supported him in his choice not to go to war, she also told him and his brother that if they decided they wanted to go and fight for Russia, she would go with them to Ukraine to cook for them and be near them. The salary for a Russian soldier in Ukraine is 3,000 Euros a month, an enormous salary by any standard for Russians, so many young men, perhaps having just gotten married, go to war thinking of paying off their mortgage, or going for a short time and then returning to build a future at home. This was the reasoning behind the choice of R’s friend, who ended up returning in a coffin.

R is 30 years old. No one insisted to make him go to war, in Russia he was outside the compulsory conscription age bracket, that is 18–27. Criminal politicians from the safety of their luxurious palaces manipulate, coerce and promise 3000 euros a month to probably unemployed and indebted 20-year-olds to go and kill innocent Ukrainians. Other humans outside their imaginary borders claim that it is the Russian people as a whole who want to kill Ukrainians.

The next day I work all day until evening in a beautiful co-working space in Barcelona that seems to be occupied by a babel of overpaid clowns employed in totally irrelevant bullshit jobs.

I meet a half-German, half-Russian who tells me his father was a KGB spy. They lived in East Germany and were, to all appearances, merely a quiet farming family. In order to communicate with other spies, he used to leave little notes in predefined hiding places. He had five passports with different names and surnames. He made frequent trips to America to meet other infiltrated spies. I ask him under what excuse an East German farmer could possibly ‘make frequent trips abroad’. He replies ‘Well, he was pretending to work with The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), of course’. Ah, of course.

In the evening I go out for a run along the Paseo Maritimo while listening to the fabulous audiobook How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett. I discover that my emotions, which have always been a guiding light, do not actually exist. The book actually says that ‘An emotion is your brain’s creation of what your bodily sensations mean, in relation to what is going on around you in the world. In every waking moment, your brain uses past experience, organised as concepts, to guide your actions and give your sensations meaning.’

When I am tired of running, I stop at a restaurant to eat paella and drink fresh orange juice.

Then I go to the hotel by taxi and the taxi driver makes fun of me because I am still wearing my tracksuit. I reply that I have already done 14km and that I have paella in my stomach. He replies that I should have run two more kilometres and that only stupid tourists eat paella in the evening because every Spaniard knows you should only eat it at lunchtime because it is too heavy. After doubly insulting me, he asks for my number and even expects me to give it to him.

If you want to be part of this, register as a donor today in your national registry: https://lnkd.in/dWzArY4

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Evelyn Amaral Garcia

Call me Develyn. Because of my astonishingly complicated life I was as awarded the "European International Women's Leadership Award 2020" in Brussels