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> July 13 – Traveling to Russia: Part 2, or Why you should always pack extra underwear in your carry-on bags
Misty_Nikula_Ohlsen
post Sep 19 2006, 09:13 PM
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We had made it to Russia. We deplaned and had to pass through Immigration and Customs. I was feeling nervous, because I have heard so many horror stories about people having trouble and since I don’t speak any Russian it was that much scarier.
Everyone from our flight (about 200 people) was assembled into a pretty small room (about the size of our science room at school – 20 feet by 40 feet) that had no air conditioning and only two open windows. It was VERY HOT and muggy, about 80 F when we had landed, so we were getting very sweaty. This only made our already ripe travel smell a bit riper!
It took about 45 minutes for our turns at the Passport Control window. That is where they look at your passport and you try to look like your picture so that they are convinced that you and your passport match. The nervous look on my face as I looked at the lady and my lack of bangs, make-up and the loss of 20 pounds since my passport picture was taken must have made my picture and my face not match up well. The official spent a long time comparing my face and my picture and even had me sign my name to compare it to my passport. After what seemed like 30 minutes, but was probably only 2, she stamped my entry cards, kept one and sent me on.
The next step was Immigration Control where they record your entry card information into their computers so that they can keep track of you. Everywhere you go in Russia that you will be staying for more than 3 days you have to register through your hotel with the authorities. That was one part of why we had to arrive so much earlier than when the ship will be leaving. We have to register at our hotel, but we also have to register with Immigration and the government authorities to travel to the Kuril Islands. Since they are in a border area and we will be on a ship, this includes the military/coast guard.
After Immigration Control, you finally get to Customs, where you pick up your bags and they make sure that the tags match your claim checks. Then you can take them through Customs where they x-ray them again and you declare any valuables that you might have. This is where my trip to Russia took a dramatic turn for the worse.
I was the next to last to come through Immigration Control and one of the first things that James said to me was – “We’re only missing three bags. Misty, didn’t you have one that was a green, army bag?” My heart sank. Turned out, that yes, only one of my two bags has made it to Russia. The one that didn’t make it was my husband’s navy sea bag. The one that did make it had my sleeping bag and pad, backpack, boots and rain gear, my Zone bars, and two long sleeved shirts. The missing bag has all of my other clothes and most of my essential, everyday toiletries – including all my medications, my other contact lenses (I wear disposable and the ones I had in will only last 1-2 more days), my shampoo, soap, lotion, toothbrush/paste, deodorant, etc. – as well as my extra camera gear, my power adapters (Russia has round plugs and 220V system) and my pictures of my husband. L
I was devastated. I walked through Customs in a daze and while we were waiting in the airport lobby for Paul, who brought all of the extra gear through, to clear Customs, the travel weariness, lack of sleep and distress of spending 7 weeks in a foreign country and out at sea with only what had managed to get into my one bag hit me and I couldn’t help crying.

We made reports at the airport about the missing bags. One of the many complications is that the names on the airport tags and the names on the bags are not the same. When we checked in at the Seattle airport, we just checked the bags randomly to each person flying and the extras were spread around. So the bags that are missing are registered to Paul and Dena, but belong to other people. If the airline labels have come off, then it will be much more difficult to locate them.
The bags have still not shown up and currently (as of Saturday morning), we have the travel agent back in Seattle trying to track them down. There are two more flights from Seoul that they could come on before we leave on the ship Monday night or Tuesday morning. The other two bags contain field gear and some expensive coring equipment that cannot be replaced here in Russia, so there is a lot of interest in locating them.

For the most part, I have adjusted to the fact that my gear is replaceable or expendable for the duration of the trip. Coincidentally, one of the other scientists, Mike Etnier, who also coincidentally lives in Bellingham, has the exact same camera as me, so I will be able to charge my battery and download the pictures still. Ben has plug adapters that I can use and most of my equipment that needs to be recharged, like my laptop and camera, can handle the 220V input. The clothes and toiletries, for the most part, can be replaced here in town before we leave or are things that I can either I can borrow from other people when I need them (like nail clippers), that I can do without (like shorts) or can make do with fewer and wash more often (like socks and shirts). Luckily, I have my glasses, since I took them on the overnight plane flight with me. So once my contacts die, I would be wearing those.

Today, Saturday, we found out that of the four bags reported missing, two are supposedly here in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Not only that but they supposedly arrived on our flight! Of course, one of those is a bag that arrived with its tag missing. We were at the airport last night to check again and there wasn’t anything, so this is a mystery. I have been doing a lot of “I hope it’s mine! I hope it’s mine!” silently to myself.
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