16 May 2017 Back home in Uppsala, back to the office!! At this time, Pablo should be flying back to Seville after an afternoon “out of the wild” in Kiev. Of course, our last day of the #ChernobylFrogs17 wasn’t an easy one…
We woke up early to have enough time to travel back to Kiev, deal with some paperwork for the samples and catch my plane to Sweden at 12:55. Pablo flight was scheduled for Wednesday, pretty early in the morning. First problem we encountered was Sergey telling us that we still did not have one of the signatures (and stamps) needed for exporting our samples… This was 5 hours from my flight.. Luckily this was solved pretty quick. No problem.
We emptied all the liquid nitrogen from our shipper in order to have it ready to flight and said goodbye to Sergey and Eugene (thanks, thanks and thanks for all your work, collaboration and great time in Chernobyl!!!). We exited Chernobyl Exclusion Zone after the classic radiation check, and went for the two hour drive to Kiev Boryspil Airport. The drive took way longer than expected, close to three hours, due to traffic jams in Kiev. No problem, we still had plenty of time…
Once I the airport, and thanks to our colleagues from the Chornobyl Centre, we started to deal with some bureaucratic issues around the export permits for our samples and dry shipper. After some time and some small payments on the other side of the airport, we were ready for the checking. Still plenty of time… The shipper ended up weighing 30 kg with all the samples, so we need to wait a little, and pay the overweight tax. Once this was solved it was time for deliver the shipper on the oversized area. And it had to go through the scanner. However, despite being on the oversized department, the scanner was a normal sized one. And our shipper, inside the protective metal box, which can not lay on one side, was clearly too big for the scanner. Anyway, the personal there said “no problem, put it through the scanner…” And the shipper got stacked there. And the scanner broke. Belt not working, scanner not working. Cose to one hour for my flight departure.
Waiting there, we were asked for one more permit checking with the export department.. 30 minutes for the flight and the scanner was dead, and no option for any other scanner was available. At this time it was pretty clear that Pablo would need to stay there and fix somehow the sending of the shipper to Sweden. Finally, someone arrived, open all the cable part of the scanner, touched here and there, and the scanner started to work again!! We took the shipper out of the box, putted the box on one side. Everything fitted through the scanner. Ready. 20 minutes for flight departure. Big hug with Pablo, big thanks to our Ukrainian colleague for her amazing help, and to the metal detection area. A queue of about hundred people. Showing that boarding on my plane started about 25 minutes ago, I managed to avoid the queue through the priority line. Only to be red positive on the metal detector, with only women working there for checking me. I had to wait for a men to check, 2 more minutes waiting… They ended up putting me in a full body scanner, adding some good microSv to my radiation accumulation for the trip 😂😂. All fine, run… to stop again at the passport control for EU residents…. Six people in front, about a minute per people to check and stamp passports. After insisting twice, I was allowed to go through the fast line. Passport scanned and stamped. And more run towards gate D9 wherever it was. “Final call for passengers flying to Stockholm”. Finally, the last one to board the plane, but I made it!!
Arriving to Stockholm, I was ready for the shipper not to appear due to the short time since we delivered it at the oversized area. But not, there it was, standing beautifully in the normal luggage belt, going towards me!!
With the shipper and all the rest of equipment I started looking for my taxi. My wife had ordered a van, a big van for carrying a big box that can not lay on one side. Many times she said a van, a big van. Of course, the taxi waiting for me wasn’t a van, but a regular car. The shipper didn’t fit in there by any means. After good 15 minutes and several taxi drives talking, thinking and arguing between them about that big metal box, I found one with a van whiling to drive me to the lab in Uppsala!!
Samples stored, shipper worked perfectly (or so it seems). Other part of the samples is arriving now in Spain. Field trip finished. Almost, still some samples and the shipper need to travel to France, but that will be master of other history.
This has been a phenomenal trip, compromised by the weather, but rather successful at the end. I will summarize the trip in a blog post later, for now all that I can say is that this trip was great on the scientific level and even more on the personal. Thanks to all the people that has been part of this, obviously starting by Pablo (Burraco), soon-to-be-doctor and my partner in crime on this project. And thanks Sergey and Eugene, essentials for all the practical arrangements, the field work, and for all their knowledge about radioactivity and Chernobyl. Thanks also to América Valenzuela for her amazing piece about our work in Chernobyl, published almost live at El Independiente. She has been somehow also part of the team these days!! And, of course, thanks to everyone that has followed us here in this blog. Same as last year, it has been a lot of fun writing in this short of diary stile from the field, telling what we do and how is it to work in a place as special as Chernobyl. Thanks for being there!!