My favorite memory of Chernobyl is the puppies.
I'd wake up at 6 a.m. every morning, walk a kilometer from my run-down hostel to the hotel, which sold cigarettes and vodka and serves such wonderful delicacies like cabbage, boiled eggs, and kielbasa with mayonnaise. I'd have breakfast with other scientists studying Chernobyl for various reasons. I took a winding path to the hotel. It took me a little longer to get there, but every morning I'd be met by a pack of 30 friendly puppies. Every time, I'd lay down on the ground and just cuddle with all these dogs.
I was in Chernobyl on a Fulbright Grant studying the effects of radiation on fungi. Previous studies have shown that the more radiation you have, the less biodiversity you have. In fungi, all signs point to the contrary. They seem to enjoy radiation. Where there's more radiation, some fungi are more successful. I wanted to capture that.