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I grabbed a few postcards to send back home and noticed the eerie, s song playing softly over the speaker. I was under the impression that there would be no signs of life except for other tourists in Chernobyl, but that isn't the case. As we drove the tree-lined road past the security checkpoint, our driver pulled over so we could get a closer look at a herd of Przewalski's horses.

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These endangered animals have lived in the area since , and it's believed the absence of humans has allowed them to thrive here. I was also surprised to learn people actually call Chernobyl home — for a little while, at least. For the few thousand people working at the power plant, they call Chernobyl home for two weeks at a time and then live off-site for two weeks, alternating with another batch of employees. In Chernobyl, I would occasionally see a car or person walking around, but for the most part, it looked incredibly empty.

I was incredibly excited to see Soviet architecture during my tour, but this statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin really helped to emphasize the world's political state when Chernobyl and Pripyat were thriving. Outside rests a monument to honor the firefighters who responded to the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. Many of the firefighters didn't realize the impacts of radiation as they worked to put out the fires at the site and later became ill or died as a result of radiation sickness.

It's impossible to explain how massive Duga is. At the time, in order to avoid any attention, it was marked on the map as a summer camp for children — even though it was a highly restricted military area.


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After the accident, there were discussions about how to remove or destroy it, but due to its close proximity to the power plant, these proposals didn't exactly seem safe. The closer we got to Pripyat, the more and more creepy abandoned places we would explore. Chernobyl's kindergarten — complete with ominous dolls and dust-covered, dilapidated furniture — was one of these places. While I would only see it from a distance at this moment, I'd have a chance to see it much closer up later on in the tour. Remember those employees who alternate living in The Zone every two weeks?

This is where they come for lunch on their workdays. Before I could sit down and eat, I needed to make sure I didn't have any lingering radioactive particles on my body. I stepped into a metal detector-like contraption, placed my hands on either side and waited for the green light to permit me to pass. Nataly said we'd encounter two more of the detectors — on our way out of the kilometer zone which we would enter shortly after lunch, and once again leaving the kilometer zone.

Luckily, there are no tourists left behind for not getting the a-OK from these devices. If someone is ever flagged and unable to pass through, the solution typically involves figuring out which article of clothing is setting it off and washing it. So we had to leave her shoe inside The Zone. People still work at the power plant here, and I saw a few employees walking around. We were given strict instructions, though, to only photograph in the direction of the New Shelter — nothing to the sides of it. At this point, Nataly pulled out a notebook with images to give us before and after comparisons or, in this case, to see what is inside.

Pripyat was designed to be a fun, hip place in order to attract people to work at the power plant. Throughout the day, we would stop by restaurants, playgrounds, and even the residences to get a glimpse of what life was like for the nearly 50, people who lived there. At a fork in the road, we stopped to admire the sign for Pripyat, a city which once held so much hope.


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  • This tree-filled area doesn't look so red right now, but after the accident in , the pine needles turned a ginger-brown hue which gave it this nickname. This is one of the most contaminated places in the world. On windy days, tour groups sometimes don't even exit the car to avoid any issues with radioactive particles which may blow around and latch onto people.

    The glass windows had all been shattered, and the rusty vending machines outside were falling apart. The cafe sat right on the waterfront, along with a bridge nearby. The before image demonstrated just how much nature has taken over in the last 33 years.

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    We were blessed with having Gary Shroeder make live sketchnotes during the conference, and here are some of them:. You can also find a lot more sketchnotes on Twitter. Linked below are some of the videos recorded at Smashing Conf NY. Smashing Conferences are friendly, inclusive events for people who care about their work. No fluff, no fillers, no multi-track experience — just actionable insights applicable to your work right away. And with film, seeing what you photographed was anything but immediate.

    Getting money to a friend or family member in the days before Venmo invariably required face-to-face contact. Or you could use a check. Things were considerably more difficult if you lived in a different city than the person you were trying to send money to. Bryant also wrote about the context in which he smoked i.

    The safe was not there because of a theft worry, but because it was fireproof.


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    • That would take months… or even years! There was no Hulu or On Demand service to catch it on the next day. Mess either up, and you miss your show. Keeping a kid entertained during a road trip involved a bit more creativity decades ago than just handing them a tablet. The short of it is, kids had to entertain themselves.

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      There was also no reading during a car or plane trip unless you remembered to pack a physical book. But fi nding that perfect book required an understanding of how they were arranged in a library. They then bring both the card and the item to the circulation desk, where they take the card and place it in a dated file, insert a dated due-date card, and return the item to the patron. Clearly, the Kindle was just the stuff of science fiction in those days.

      That would have been crazy to us.

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      It was a weight-loss tool rather than healthy living. The mannequins would be interacting, so it was easy to fantasize that this was what your life could look like. It really was the Instagram of its time. Some people, like Warfel, had a more personal relationship with their local clothing stores. We relied on certain name brands for quality and style, and sometimes for social status. But there were other ways to feel connected to those living far away. Phone call fees were often based on distance—the closer you lived to the person you were contacting, the cheaper the call.

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      The other factor was the time of day. Calls were cheaper on weekends and late at night. But just a few decades ago, it was an entirely different experience.