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Misadventures of a Yardie: Winter Too Cold

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Part 1: Cold a Bite Me

As a young yardie, I lived in Lethe Crossing, a rural mountainous community in St. James, Jamaica. It offered a picturesque backdrop that felt like it had sprung straight from a vivid daydream. Large homes with expansive properties dotted the landscape, each estate separated by lush greenery and vibrant tropical flowers that thrived in the Jamaican sun. The community was a harmonious blend of nature and human touch, where birds chirping complemented the laughter of children playing in the yards.

The main road through Lethe Crossing was lined with street-side shops, each painted in bright, cheerful colors that seemed to ward off the somberness of any cloudy day. Often bustling with locals and the occasional tourist, these shops sold everything from freshly picked fruits to handmade crafts, exuding a warmth characteristic of island life. Just across the rickety old train tracks lay a block factory, it’s rhythmic pounding a steady reminder of the industrious spirit of the people.

Beyond the community’s everyday noise and color, a less traveled road wound into the mountains, leading to a renowned bird sanctuary. Nestled high among the misty peaks, this tourist attraction was a haven for exotic birds and a hidden gem for those seeking tranquility amidst nature’s chorus.

My house, modest yet filled with love, was perched at the edge of a valley, granting a panoramic view that could steal one’s breath away. The backyard opened to a vast green pasture, untouched and free, where I often retreated to daydream. In this pasture, I would lie back against the soft grass, the sky above wide and welcoming, and envision my future. I imagined bustling cities and snowy landscapes so different from the tropical embrace of Lethe Crossing.

This spot was my place of zen, where the possibilities seemed endless as the sky I gazed into, each cloud a floating promise of future adventures. I often yearned to experience life abroad, or as we commonly called it, “Foreign.” The allure of distant lands filled my imagination, fueled by stories passed down from generation to generation.

In 1992, a family member sent me a precious gift—a map of the United States. As I carefully unfolded it, my eyes widened in wonder at the colorful shapes and intricate lines that delineated the vast expanse of the country. I pored over the pictures of the major cities, tracing my fingers along the coastlines and mountains. Yet, the images of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida, captivated me the most. The promise of endless sunshine and warmth beckoned to me, making these two places the pinnacle of my aspirations. They represented a world free from the biting cold of snow, where palm trees swayed in the breeze, and the ocean stretched to the horizon.

Years passed, and the map remained pinned to my bedroom wall, a constant reminder of the dreams beyond the horizon. Then, one fateful day, the opportunity to immigrate to the United States presented itself—a chance to turn my dreams into reality. But despite my longing for adventure, I found myself unprepared for the magnitude of the journey ahead.

As a 16-year-old boy, I stood on the threshold of a new beginning, my heart torn between excitement and trepidation. With each step I took, I meticulously planned my transition, immersing myself in English and devouring every scrap of information I could find about my destination. I studied maps and guidebooks, tracing imaginary routes through the unfamiliar streets of my future home.

The day of departure arrived, and I bid farewell to my grandfather and other loved ones, my heart heavy with anticipation. Tears welled in my eyes as I hugged them tightly, knowing that this was not just a journey of miles but a journey of the soul. As the plane soared above the Caribbean Sea, I couldn’t shake the lingering sense of unease that gnawed at my insides. Yet, amidst the uncertainty, a flicker of determination burned within me—a determination to seize this opportunity with both hands and forge a new path.

As we touched down, excitement coursed through me. However, reality dawned when the flight attendant’s announcement pierced the air, shattering my dreams. I realized I had landed not in the tropical paradise of Fort Lauderdale or Miami but in the bustling metropolis of New York City.
Although I felt disappointed and like a stranger in a strange land, I did not let that ruin the reality of the situation,

“Me finally mek it a foreign.”

A wave of excitement and apprehension washed over me when I stepped out of the plane at JFK Airport. I looked around, taking in the hustle and bustle of the airport, the cacophony of voices speaking different languages, the aroma of various foods wafting through the air. I searched for my mother, scanning the crowd until I finally spotted her, standing tall with my two younger sisters beside her. I could barely contain my excitement as I approached them, my heart racing with anticipation.

“Mom!” I called out, a wide grin spreading as I hugged her tightly. It had been years since I last saw her, and the thought of finally being reunited filled me with joy.

Her tear-filled eyes met mine, overflowing with love and emotion as she finally brought us together to live under one roof.

“Jahmar!” she exclaimed, her voice thick with emotion as she hugged me back. “I’ve missed you so much.”

Beside her stood my baby sister Aaliyah, a bundle of innocence and curiosity, unaware of the momentous occasion unfolding before her. It was a reunion filled with joy and apprehension, a collision of past and future that would shape our lives in ways we could never have imagined. As we went through the airport, my mother introduced me to my other sister, Maya. Aaliyah, the older of the two, looked at me with wide eyes, her dark curls bouncing as she grinned from ear to ear. On the other hand, Maya clung to my mother’s leg, her shy demeanor a stark contrast to her sister’s exuberance.

Once we retrieved our luggage, we headed outside to catch a cab to our new home in Brooklyn. The cold air hit me like a slap in the face, a sharp contrast to the warm climate of Jamaica. I shivered as we loaded our bags into the cab trunk, excitement coursing through my veins as we embarked on this new adventure.

The drive to my new neighborhood was a blur of towering skyscrapers looming overhead, casting long shadows over the bustling streets below. The incessant noise assaulted my senses, a cacophony of car horns, shouting voices, and the rhythmic thud of footsteps on the pavement. I clung to my mother’s hand, her presence a comforting anchor amid the chaos.

When we finally arrived at our apartment building in the Newkirk area of Brooklyn, I couldn’t help but stare in awe at the towering structure before us. As we entered the building, stale cigarette smoke mingled with old carpet, and musty air slapped us. I wrinkled my nose in distaste, but my excitement remained unabated as we went to the first-floor apartment that would be my new home.

When my mother opened the door, I was greeted by a blast of warm air and reggae music playing softly in the background. The apartment was small but cozy, with mismatched furniture arranged haphazardly around the room. A faded couch sat in the corner, its plastic covering crinkling beneath my weight as I sat down. Across from the sofa was a large TV furniture, its shelves cluttered with knick-knacks and ornaments collected over the years.

“This a your room,” my mother said, gesturing towards a door at the end of the hall. “You a go share it wid your sisters.”

I followed her into the room, my heart sinking at the sight of the small twin bed and a bunk bed pushed up against the wall. Gone were the days of having my own space, of sharing a room with my brother back home in Jamaica. But as I looked around at my mother and sisters, their faces filled with love and excitement, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for this new beginning.

Fast forward to winter, and I found myself staring out our apartment window, mesmerized by snow covering the ground below. It was my first experience with snow, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of wonder as I watched the flakes fall from the sky, swirling and dancing in the air.
“Come on, Jahmar,” my sister called from the doorway. “We’re going to Prospect Park to play in the snow.”
I tore my gaze away from the window, a grin spreading across my face as I hurried to join them. I watched as they bundled up in their coats and scarves. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement coursing through my veins. Despite the cold weather and the unfamiliarity of my surroundings, I must embrace this change.

In a matter of minutes, I stepped outside, and reality hit me. The journey from the balmy beaches of Jamaica to the frost-bitten sidewalks of New York was a contrast between the two climates. But here I was on my first great Jamaican snow expedition. Wrapped in my idea of winter armor—a brightly colored beach shirt layered over another beach shirt—I remembered stepping off the plane at JFK, naively confident I was ready to take on the Big Apple but unaware of the notorious winters. As I stared at the streets and vehicles covered in snow, my bones ached as the cold greeted me like an uninvited guest at a summer barbecue, intrusive and chilling to the bone.

Armed with a misguided sense of adventure and a severely underestimated understanding of a blizzard, I set my sights on experiencing the mythical phenomenon known as snow. My destination? The iconic Prospect Park. I decided to journey in the heart of a blizzard that locals had wisely chosen to avoid. The park, a sprawling expanse of white, looked like a scene straight out of a holiday movie, except there was no warm fireplace waiting for me at the end of this script.

Dressed in an ensemble that screamed “tourist” louder than a foghorn—flip-flops, shorts, and the infamous double beach shirt—I entered the park with a child’s enthusiasm on Christmas morning. The pristine and untouched snow beckoned me with its siren song, luring me into what I would soon discover was a beautifully laid trap.

As we approached the park, my sister Aaliyah, bundled up in her puffy jacket and scarf, couldn’t hide her excitement. She dashed ahead, her voice floating back on the chilly air.

“Jahmar, come see di snow, it thick like a coconut cake!” she called out, giggling as her tiny boots kicked up flurries.

“Mi deh come, gal! Mi cyaa believe how cold it is!” I shouted back, my breath forming clouds in the frigid air.

The snow’s enchanting facade began to crumble with each step, revealing its true nature as a cold, wet adversary. The icy ground beneath me quickly foiled my attempts to walk with dignity, turning my stride into a frantic shuffle. Then came the moment of overconfidence—I attempted to run. My sisters witnessed a spectacle as I performed an impromptu slapstick routine, slipping, sliding, and eventually face-planting into the powdery abyss. My efforts to rise were met with more falls, each more comical than the last, turning me into a live-action cartoon for the amusement of the few onlookers brave enough to weather the storm.

The highlight of my misadventure was my valiant attempt at making a snow angel. Lying on my back, I moved my arms and legs with all the grace of a beached whale, only to find myself creating what could best be described as a snow blob—an abstract piece of art that left onlookers puzzled and amused.
“Look pon him, Aaliyah! Him look more like a snow crab dan angel!” Maya teased from a safe distance, her laughter ringing clear against the quiet of the snow-covered park.

As the reality of the cold set in, my tropical body began to shiver uncontrollably, a stark reminder that I was not, in fact, invincible against the elements. My teeth chattered in Morse code, spelling out “retreat,” as I conceded to the winter, returning to the warmth of indoor heating. The journey back was a quiet one. My pride was slightly bruised, but my spirit was undeterred, warmed by the laughter and sheer absurdity of the day’s events.

As I stumbled back into the apartment, cheeks stung from the cold and body shivering uncontrollably, my sisters burst ahead of me, barely containing their glee. “Mommy, Mommy! Yuh shoulda see Jahmar! Him tink him tough ’nough fi di snow. Him walk outta de house just like dat. All de way to de park him a freeze but a pretend him alright! Look pon him. Him not even a wear a jacket, how him expect to win gainst di snow?” Aaliyah exclaimed.

Maya chimed in with her own colorful commentary, hardly able to stand still, “Wen we reach, him even try fi mek a snow angel and wet up him clothes. It neva even look like a angel it end up looking like a snow crab! Den him try to get up, but fall flat pon him face. It was the funniest thing ever!”

Their laughter filled the small kitchen as I trudged in, my soggy flip-flops leaving a trail of melted snow behind me. My mother, who had been busy in the kitchen, turned around, her expression morphing from concern to disbelief to amusement as she took in my sorry state.

“Jahmar, what kinda masquerade yuh deh pon?” she asked, trying to scold me, but her lips twitched with suppressed laughter. “Mi tell yuh fi dress warm, but yuh hard ears nuh? Look pon yuh now, shaking like a leaf!”

I managed a sheepish grin, but my teeth were chattering uncontrollably.

“Mi tink mi coulda handle it, Mommy, but the cold wicked a dan me. No yardie nuh suppose fi live inna dem ice box yah.”

“Well, mi hope yuh learn yuh lesson now,” she said, her tone softening as she ushered me towards the bathroom. “Go tek a hot shower ‘fore yuh catch yuh death out dere.”

Later in the evening, after I had taken a hot shower and eaten a warm meal that included stew chicken, dumplings, yam, and banana, the reality of my snowscape caught up to me. I started to feel a scratchy throat coming on, a slight headache forming like a dark cloud over my head. The next morning, I awoke feeling like I’d been run over by one of those massive yellow school buses I’d seen on the streets.

“Jesas Christ, mi head a hurt me,” I groaned. My voice sounded raspy, and my throat was scratchier as I went to the kitchen.

My mother clucked her tongue sympathetically but with a knowing look. “I told yuh so, didn’t I? Now yuh haffi go school, sick or not. A so it go inna New York.”

“Mi know, Mom, mi know,” I replied, dragging my feet. It was a bummer to head off to school not only as the new kid but as the new sick kid. But as I bundled up—this time appropriately for the weather—I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. From now on, I’d take the New York winter seriously. But even under layers of clothing and a woolly hat pulled down over my ears, I knew I’d never live down the day I became a ‘snow crab’ in the eyes of my little sisters.

Series NavigationMisadventures of a Yardie: Lost in Translation >>
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