Tresan Frazer says that Montana is a special place and even though she was born in Jamaica, she has come to appreciate the cold climate. PHOTO COURTESY OF TRESAN FRAZER

From the tropics to the snow

Tresan Frazer on finding the land of opportunity

As one of the H-2B Program participants employed in Big Sky, Tresan Frazer saw snow for the first time in 2017 – and has come back every winter since.

“I like Montana because it is different. It is not crowded like other states. I like meeting new people, learning about Montana, and I also like the cold,” she said. “Yes, I am from a tropical country, but I do like the cold.”

She joins the legion of workers who leave their homes, everything they know – and sometimes even their children – for months and years at a time out of economic necessity. When the Jamaican economy tanked, so did job prospects. What little work can be found pays only a fraction of what can be made on foreign soil. The U.S.’s H-2B program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill non-agriculture positions.

“I came on the hope that [my family’s] lives and my life would be better; that I wouldn’t have to go through what my parents and oldest siblings did,” she said.

Growing up in Jamaica was difficult. Infrastructure that is commonplace in the states is not found in her hometown of Whitehouse Westmoreland. Road conditions in her small fishing village were terrible – and still are. Some of the money she earns is sent home to help fund building onto the tworoom family home. Her siblings and mother work on constructing the house, and Frazer helps when she visits, but materials are expensive and transporting them to their property is tedious.

It is a rural, rustic, beautiful area where the family backyard garden turns out things like bananas, yams and potatoes. Fresh fish like snapper, grunt and turbot are often on the menu. It would almost be idyllic if poverty were not so prevalent and if the people did not know such pains as water scarcity – resulting for many in a thirst that could never quite be quenched.

“We didn’t have water flowing from pipes. When it rained, we had to catch water. My family would run out of water. When there is a drought and it doesn’t rain, it is hard to get water. We had to buy [it] in jugs, but then it’s expensive. We couldn’t buy a lot for a big family,” she said.

Some of the money she has made helped fund her brother’s college education in tourism and hospitality management.

Her family wanted her to work in America so that she might find opportunity, so she might someday achieve her dream of a nursing degree.

“It was always a hope that I can save money to better my education because my mother, father and some of my siblings didn’t go far in school,” she said.

For now, she works in Big Sky with coworkers and friends who keep their vibrant culture alive in the chilly snowscape. They speak Patois and dance remarkably to the hypnotic beats of Jamaican music. Sometimes they procure and cook oxtail, a delicacy in Jamaica and prepare an assortment of dishes with exotic spices. The good-natured razzing, laughter and kindness she shares with her friends in Montana is very much an extension of how things are back home, she explained.

There is a buoyancy and vibrancy in some people who have known true hardship, as Frazer and many of her friends and family have.

It can be argued that people who have known the rough patches in life are the ones who really know how to live.

From the first time she stepped foot on Montana soil she told herself she was going to have new experiences and adventures. She recently tried skiing and is proud to say she did not fall.

“It’s something new, but I like it,” she said. “The only place I saw snow like this was on TV and it was always beautiful. But now, I am here, and it’s even more beautiful.”

She said those she meets, her friends, customers and people in the community continually inspire her.

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