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My First Minnesota Winter

Adan JamaIce is an expensive commodity in parts of Africa, so when Somali immigrant Adan Jama called his children to let them know how he was coping with his first Minnesota winter, he got little sympathy from them about his bad fall on the ice.

"They said, 'Are you crazy? Ice we buy for one dollar, two dollars? You fell down on ice just like that? Are you crazy? Don't tell us that. You're staying in a very good place. Do you suppose you can send it to us to make some money?'"

Jama's recollections and those of other immigrants are part of the Weather Permitting exhibit. The exhibit draws from the Society's many letters, diaries and other resources that describe how Minnesotans reacted to the climate of their new land. But for Weather Permitting, curator Loris Sofia Gregory didn't have to go too far back in history to portray the shock that some new residents feel when they encounter their first Minnesota winter. She did her research among Minnesotans who have been here only a year or two. Jama, for example, moved to the state in August 2000. Their insights show how coping with winter weather remains a shared experience, even as the state's population continually changes.

Jovito ValbuenaJovito Valbuena from Venezuela, who arrived in Minnesota in October 2000, just ahead of a long, cold winter, said: "I tried to build a snowman with my hands, without my gloves. Oh! I feel the hurt in my hands very strong. That was when the temperature was 20 degrees. The next week, it was 12, 13 below zero. Oh, I never in my life have felt cold very strong in all my body."

Amin Umer of Ethiopia, who arrived in February 1999, had difficulty adjusting to the many layers of clothing necessary to staying warm. "Whenever I think about moving out, I say, 'I have to wear all these clothes I have. I have to wear it from inside on top another and on top another. It comes another on top.' The same thing with the kids. I feel bad about it. It's a lot of work."