Gazing outside the large, paneled window of my room, I am greeted by a winter wonderland. Fluffy flakes swirl and twirl towards the ground, lighter and softer than I had imagined. Icicles, sleek and smooth, glisten in the wintery light, dangling from rooftops and railings. Coating the tops of the trees, white snow fades to black branch and falls away. It suddenly occurs to me that I never knew what the color white really looked like. As a native Arizonian, born and raised, the summer sun flows through my veins; I breathe dust, eat cacti, and hunt scorpions in my spare time. Following my move to Providence, Rhode Island, where I have used my sunglasses a grand total of one single time when the snow was too bright, I have certainly done a lot of adjusting.
As I get ready for a typical wintery day, I consider what to wear. I first pick a sweater, maybe an undershirt, and slip on a big coat. The second I step foot out the door, a giant gust of wind plows into me, and I immediately retreat back to my room to put on more layers.
Walking down my usual path to class, I find my mind wandering. I notice a glimmer on the ground, a slight sheen on the usually matte-black pavement. Next thing I know, I am flying in the air, sliding down the ramp on my hands and knees, and finally, face-planting into a pile of snow. This is my first real winter. I have fallen at least four times, nearly broken my tailbone once, and stepped in at least three mid-calf-deep puddles.
As I continue on my journey, I brush off the snowflakes that cling to the fabric of my clothes and assume my normal cold-resistant, walking position. I throw up my furry hood, hunch my shoulders, bury my face deeper into my scarf, and shove my gloved hands into my pockets. I know now that the most important part of staying warm in the winter is to never, ever, ever hold anything in your hands. If my hand is holding something, then it isn’t inside my pocket. And if it isn’t inside my pocket, it will get frostbite and fall off. Then that hand will never hold anything again.
Sitting at my desk in class, standing in line for food, or generally existing, I am not used to my limbs being six times their usual puffiness. I can control their flailing even less than usual; and I will constantly knock things over, bump into people, and spill infinite glasses of water onto infinite homework assignments.
After I return from my adventures, I relax in my haven of a room. Here, away from the frigid Providence air, I am able to be my true desert self. I try to simulate the climate of my home by blasting the heat in my comfortingly toasty room.
However, on some rare occasions, I look out my window instead of typing furiously away on my laptop or pause to appreciate my surroundings on my mad dashes to classes I am late to every day. And in these moments, I realize that Providence is beautiful. It has fewer spiky, green things and more fluffy, white things; but both are great things. I realize that I am lucky to be experiencing my first real winter in this stunning snow-scape.
Thursday, February 9, 2017, is a day that I will never forget: my very first snow day ever. I had no classes, did no homework, slept in, drank hot chocolate, played in the snow with friends, hosted a midnight movie marathon, all bundled up and warm — how could it get any better than that? Another thing that came with the snow (besides bumps, bruises, and transformation into a human popsicle) was a bond with all the amazing people I have met at Brown University. I have found friends who are both suffering with me and laughing at my suffering, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Moving here was more than just a change of scenery. The new experiences I’ve enjoyed and new people I’ve met have really helped me to grow as a person by adapting not only to new weather but a new culture and a new life.
All in all, while there have been challenges along the way, I know that movement and travel are good. Change is good. The adventures and friends I’ve gained these past seven months have taught me an astounding amount, and I am eternally grateful that I moved to Providence.
Photographs by Anita Sheih