When the response for my work visa application came in the mail I was so excited! I opened it up expecting something very official, and while it was an official document with a fancy stamp and signature, it certainly wasn’t an ID card or at least a sticker to put in my passport. Nothing like what I expected. The letter did say that my application was approved, I could enter Norway within the next 6 months and I have to report to the police office within 1 week of arriving in Norway. Should be easy enough… however back in October I was warned by many people that getting appointments at the police office could take a couple MONTHS!! So I checked online, there was a site to book your appointment with the police department, and yes, there was no availability until mid to late March (and only a few appointments still left!). I had overheard that there was another possible option to travel to another town South of Tromsø by ferry and visit the police station there. It sounded like an adventure! I would be able to meet my obligations and explore a little bit. So the first thing that I did when I arrived in Tromsø was to start asking questions to anyone and everyone about how to take this ferry to Finnsnes.
The ferry is actually connected to the bus system in Tromsø, so I used my bus card to pay the fare. Also I learned that on Thursdays the bus left Tromsø at 7AM and returned at 6PM, so it was going to be a very long day. I set out in the completely dark morning and caught the 6:20 bus #20 to the city center. I walked a short way to the boat launch and made sure I was on the correct boat (there was another one going north). When I tried to get onto the ferry boat there were 2 men in long dark coats waiting near the entrance to the boat, as I approached they said something (it seemed they were talking to themselves). But then one of the men put his arm out and shoved a small black device towards me that had a red light illuminated. I didn’t know what he wanted to I naturally back away from this strange device and he moved it closer to me again. I was thinking what it could possibly be for… so I pulled out my bus pass and put it up to the device, assuming he was trying to charge me the fare. Well that wasn’t what he wanted to he tried in english and very gruffly said, “name”. I responded, “Nicole”. Then he asked again and I responded the same. In retrospect he was asking for both my first and last name, but I was so flustered at this point that I could not figure it out, and there were some people already waiting behind me. He asked me for my age and where I was travelling. It finally made sense!! He was collecting a list of people on the boat in case of emergency. Now feeling very silly I boarded the boat and took a seat. The boat could seat quite a few people and even had a cafe and electrical outlets for those working on their computers. Someone eventually came around and charged our bus cards for the trip.
After one hour the ferry pulled into Finnsnes as it was just starting to get a little bit light out. It was a high speed ferry so we were able to get to Finnsnes in about 1 hour, where it takes over 2 hours to drive (the driving route is not very direct).
I was there pretty early before my appointment, since I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss it. So I walked around and explored down by the water, around some residential areas up the hill, through a park with a communal ice track and hockey rink on the pond, and the small city center with several shops and a small mall. Finnsnes was very small in comparison to Tromsø, but also very beautiful. The roads and sidewalks, however, were incredibly treacherous. I was very thankful Jesse had bought me some pretty intense crampons that I can put on over any of my shoes or boots. All the locals stopped to stare at me as I walked by because of how loud it was, BUT I didn’t fall and was able to walk anywhere. I didn’t see anyone fall, but I did see a couple of close calls and quite a few people who were likely very late to work because of how slowly they were walking.
An hour or so later, I went in for my big event at the police department. Papers were photocopied, pictures were taken, I was fingerprinted and 10 minutes later we were all done! I was told that I would get my resident permit in the mail within 2 weeks, then I could go to the tax office and start my application for a Norwegian ID number and tax card. It was crazy to think of all the people in Tromsø who were waiting for months to have an appointment at the police department. There was no one else there when I went. I would highly recommend going outside the major cities to do such paperwork… but of course you then have to pay for the price of the ferry or bus.
I had about 8 hours to kill before my ferry back to Tromsø. So A LOT more walking and exploring was involved. It was starting to look like the sun was going to come up so I set out walking over the bridge from Finnsnes to Silsand (on the island of Senja). The views were spectacular!
Finally I was too cold and tired to keep walking, I got back to the bus/ferry station around 4 in the evening, ordered some food and treated myself to a waffle. Several hours later I very proudly stated my name, age and destination into the voice recorder as I boarded the ferry back to Tromsø.