I was born and raised in Somalia, then lived many years in Dallas. After I graduated from the University of North Texas, I moved to Saint Paul in search of a job and a wife. It was January 2004, and the temperature, with windchill had dropped to -40° F.
I thought my heart would freeze before I found work, not to mention a wife. My car would not start my first morning. I asked my friend who lived in Saint Paul, “Hey, why won’t my car start?”
He said, “Your battery is dead. You need a new battery, and you better put anti-freeze in your radiator. This is not Dallas. And you will need new tires for driving in the snow.”
I tried to open the hood of my car so my friend could charge my battery. He just watched me as my mustache frosted over. My ears were going to fall off. I thought I was turning into a snowman. Once we got a new battery, my windshield wipers broke from trying to clear away all the ice on my windshield.
Wherever I went, people started the conversation by asking, “Is this your first winter here?”
When I said that it was, then they told me, “This winter is not that bad; the one last year was worse.”
They asked, “Why did you move to Saint Paul?”
“Because I love the weather.”
They always replied, “Are you insane? Why did you move to Minnesota in the middle of winter?”
“I love the weather here, just as many Somalis love Minnesota weather.”
I never wore gloves in my life before moving to Saint Paul. This was a mystery to me—how do I keep my gloves? I kept losing one pair of gloves after another.
In my geography class when I was in high school in Somalia, I learned about the Mississippi River. I never thought one day I would see it with my own eyes. The first time I saw it was when I drove over Highway 52 near downtown Saint Paul. The sad thing was, the river too was frozen. I could not wait until summer.