By Prudent Ndiho
September is the month when fall – or autumn – starts. Leaves fall from the trees, students go back to school, the temperature cools considerably, hot morning showers become longer, the heat comes on in cars and the days become noticeably shorter. People put their shorts back in the closet and bring out their sweaters. The air conditioner and fans go back in storage and blankets are added to bed covers. As the days go by, winter arrives.
When many people who were born and raised in Maine think of winter, they envision fun – skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowball fights and, of course, Christmas. But for people who are from Africa – where snow may look nice on a TV screen, but temperatures range between 70 and 90 degrees, year round – winter is at best a scary adventure, and for many, a nightmare.
When I first arrived in Portland, the first thing I heard was, “It’s really cold.” I was terrified, but at the same time I could not wait to see snow with my own eyes. We called snow “the white stuff from the sky.” You might be wondering how you can prepare for this change in seasons – or for this frightening, upcoming adventure.
I assure those who arrived in Maine over the summer or early fall, and have never experienced the cold weather, that although winter might sound frightening, you will survive. You should start getting ready now, and not wait until December to get ready. Ideally, preparation for winter would begin in August, but October is still fine.
In my opinion, the first thing to do is to get your flu shot. You can ask your primary doctor to give you a shot or go to a pharmacy near you. If you need help figuring out how to get the flu shot, ask your community leader for assistance. The next thing to do is get special clothing, such as a warm coat or jacket, long underwear to wear under your clothing, thick socks for your feet (sometimes you may want to wear two pairs of socks), a winter hat (for your head and ears – this is very important), gloves, a scarf, winter boots and maybe cleats for the bottoms of your sneakers or boots, in case of ice.
Winter clothes are cheaper and easier to find early in the season, or even in the summer, if you can. I would recommend stores like Goodwill or Burlington Coat Factory for inexpensive clothes. You can also check clothing closets (you will find a list in Amjambo Africa!) for free clothing.
Other things I would suggest keeping in your home are ginger tea or lemon tea. Ginger tea has been tremendously helpful for many people, myself included. So, keep it in your kitchen, just in case. And discuss with your health care provider the best medications to use if you get a cold, or the flu.
In the eight years that I have been in Maine, I can’t say that I am accustomed to the cold and snow now, but because I have learned to prepare for it, I am no longer terrified. So, let’s all prepare for winter now, so that we can enjoy winter without catching a cold or the flu.
Prudent Ndiho is a writer who loves music, people, and God.