"From a very young age, I’ve always had a bag with me

As if from a young age I realized that home

Was never going to be a place

But my family

And the things I carried in my bag

Are what made up home.

 

So everywhere I went I had a bag

As if the bag carried memories I didn’t want to forget

Like 

Sitting around the fire in Zambia

Under the night sky

Telling stories with the neighborhood kids

Like

Tasting snow for the first time in Tennessee

And realizing that it wasn’t rice falling from the sky

Like

Living in homeless shelters in Minnesota

Those were hard times for my parents

But as a child all I cared for was the warmth I felt 

As my 8 siblings and I squeezed in one bedroom

The laughter we shared in the small living room

As Papa and Mama told stories 

While waiting for the nsmina and sombe to finishing cooking

On the stove

 

And through all of these memories

I had a bag as if I was taking notes of these memories

Stuffing them in my bag

So that the next time we have to pack up

And find a new place to live

All the memories of the places I’ve been to

Were right there with me in my bag

 

     Even as an adult, I always have a bag with me; I now carry many bags because the older I get the more room I need to fit all my memories. These bags carry with them memories and lessons of all the places I’ve been to, all the places I’ve called home. If you walk a mile in my shoes you’ll learn that the memories in my bags are what make me who I am today. The good and bad memories have given me the strength to walk miles in my shoes. And January 2021 I took my bags with me, away from my family, my first home, to complete my Masters at Stanford and start my journey as a middle school teacher in Oakland California. I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, but I never thought that I would be teaching miles away from my first home, nor did I think I would be teaching in a pandemic. Walk a mile in my shoes and you’ll understand how hard it is to teach with a mask on, to create joy in your classroom and a space where students can feel safe while dealing with so much uncertainty. This hasn’t been easy, but I know that the miles I’ve traveled in my shoes, the memories that I carry in my bag, prepare me for this journey. " 

-Atosha Rypa

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