Vladivostok, Russia

I never did make it to Russky Island today.

It has been a day of misadventure, and somewhat more adrenaline than I would've liked.

As I approached the ferry terminal for Russky Island, I was chased by five dogs, large feral dogs, ostensibly very hungry (considering only minutes earlier I saw them fighting over half a pair of tattered, winter gloves, not in a playful way but as though the gloves had nutritional value). When I stepped too close to their territory, it was game on. The lead dog charged directly at me, and the others followed immediately behind. They chased me for only about thirty meters, maybe forty, but when you're wearing six layers of clothing below the belt, and you're running full speed on solid ice in hiking boots, even thirty meters feels like a long time.

By the time I turned and ran, the lead dog was no more than three or four meters away.

After I crossed the roadway, running blindly into traffic, I didn't realize I was already right next to the ferry terminal, so I wandered around for another two hours before returning to nearly the exact same location; fortunately the dogs were asleep, but this time I had an uncomfortable encounter with a van full of young Russian soldiers. When I walked past, I sensed our eye contact crossed a cultural line, so instead of waiting to be approached, I approached them (based on my gut feeling, and also what I had learned from my conversations with Dmitry and Alexei, who said, When you have unwelcome encounters with the police or officials, be polite but also be American; if things get rough, just keeping saying, U.S. Embassy). I asked them in broken Russian about the ferry terminal, which I already knew was less than 100 meters away.

The camouflaged soldiers (military port police, maybe?) gathered I was American, and when they asked, I told them I was from their sister city, San Francisco. One of them spoke halfway decent English, enough (and more) to understand I was looking for the ferry to Russky Island. There was an uncomfortable moment when I realized they were intentionally pointing me in the wrong direction, down to what appeared to be a deadend port area.

I wasn't really sure how to respond. I couldn't exactly say, You're full of shit, fuck you.

So instead I played dumb and said, Ferry tomorrow, is good, yes. Then I walked around the corner toward the ferry terminal. As soon as I entered, my heart already racing, my paranoia got the best of me. The ferry terminal was full of sketchy looking locals, an underemployable crowd, to put it kindly. I got one of those feelings, the kind where after the fact you say, I should've known better. So I ditched out on Russky Island and headed toward the crowd at the nearby train station instead. I pulled my hat down low, and let myself get lost in the crowd.

I think I have pressed my luck far enough in Vladivostok. It is now time to leave the city. I will try to take a train tomorrow night to Ulan Ude. It is between sixty-two and sixty-seven hours by train. I met a guy named Jelle (pronounced 'Yella') from the Netherlands with whom I will most likely travel. First we just need to figure out exactly where and how to buy tickets. Traveling by train in Russia is not always easy: Lines at the ticket windows are long, the attendants have reputations for being willfully unhelpful, and all Russian trains run on Moscow time, regardless of the fact that we are seven time zones and nearly 6,000 miles from Moscow.