“Nyet! The fat frizzy-haired customs wench wrinkled her nose and scowled behind the glass of her Vladivostok airport booth, raising the open passport of photographer Chris Burkard to eye level. “This not good!” she hissed at him, a long red fingernail pointing to the Entry From date on his $236 Russian Federation visa. Apparently the authorities back in America had misprinted the day Burkard was to arrive—technically he wasn’t allowed into the Rossiyskaya Federatsiya for another two days.
Burkard was to be placed on the next flight back to Seoul, South Korea, leaving in 45 minutes. But after a futile two-hour hash with authorities upstairs, someone said, “It is time to go,” and Burkard was pushed outside by three armed airport guards. The rainy sky was a darkening burnt gray, silhouetted with industrial smokestacks, whorls of brown mist, and pristine mountain ranges of the Primorsky Krai. The air was cool and a touch humid, the gale strong from the southeast, a wave-making wind.