My first winter experience

NdeyKumbaDemba2By NdeyKumbaDemba.

Like most African countries, tales about snow and how cold it gets in American is quite common. Some find it amusing, entertaining, and beautiful while others find it just irritating. I however find it the combination of it all. At first it is beautiful, amusing and entertaining but it becomes boring soon enough. I mean hearing the same stuff all the time gets boring at some point. People who experienced the snow find it a sense of “pride” I chose to call it , narrating their stories to whosoever cares to listen. And believe me, they attract a good number of people.

Coming from The Gambia, a small country in West Africa, heading to the US to pursue a Degree program in journalism, I have had numerous coaching from “experienced” people about how cold it can be during winter in the United States and how prepared I ought be. My mother personally took me shopping! I mean I am twenty-two, for crying out loud! But then, she wanted to ensure I got the right clothing to arm myself against this unimaginable, horrible, despicable cold! In hindsight, I am glad she came, because I was certainly going for cute outfits that may not give me the warmth I seek. She was there like a bell in my ears, reminding me of what I should be ready for. I have heard so many boring tales about how cold it gets in the states that I think some are alter exaggeration. But, I did learn my lessons.

On the 6th of January 2014, I departed for the United States of America to advance my education at DMACC and my eventual transfer to a university. To say I was excited is an understatement. I came loaded with hope, enthusiasm, a focus and centered mind. And yes, well armed against the cold.

My first snow experience was in Chicago. I had a connecting flight from Chicago to Des Moines. I was meant to spend two hours in transit. It took longer than that and the flight was almost canceled because of the weather. I was glad the flight was not canceled that would have been a terrible ideal of its own. Stranded at the airport, not knowing anyone and with money was not even sure could pay for a hotel coupled with the stress of finding my way around a state and a country I’ve never been before. Much to my relief, I just had to stay for more hours. I didn’t mind the hours I had to stay and wait, it is nothing compared to what would have happened otherwise.

I stood near the airport exit and whenever the doors were open, the cold wind greets me angrily. I looked outside to see massive pile of snow all around. I wore thick clothes, but nothing prepared me for this kind of cold. Immediately, I took out my winter shoes, gloves, winter hat from my hand luggage and wore them. It felt better, but I was still shaking from the cold. I have never known this much cold. Even the sight of the snow for the first time was not all that pleasing. I was more concerned about getting warm than appreciating the sight of the snow as beautiful as it was.

The Gambia is popularly known as the land of the three “Ss”. The “Ss” meaning Sun, Sand and Sea. Over the course of a year, the temperature typically varies from 64°F to 95°F and is rarely below 60°F or above 101°F. This is a far cry from what I saw and what I will learn to live with for a couple of months.

On landing at the Des Moines airport, I was picked up by my contact person. He told me that on that particular day it was not cold. Here I was shaking, cold to my core and someone tells me “it is not cold today”! If this is not cold I said to myself, what is cold then? Well that answer came sooner than I expected. The following days were horrible. I caught flu immediately. But, there was a balance I suppose. My excitement for school outweighed my desire to stay inside and keep warm. That helped thicken my resistance to the cold. For the days to come however, I learn to adjust, not that I have a choice! The snow I didn’t get to appreciate started looking nice. Maybe it is just me taking notice.

A month now, I even go out to take pictures when it is snowing. And just a weekend ago, I made my first snow angel and had a snow fight with my friends on campus.  Snow may be different things to different people. Whatever it is that comes to your mind when you think of snow; beautiful, lovely, awful, cold or horrible, for an African girl like me, you just need to toughen up to appreciate its beauty. It is beautiful, right?

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