Ethiopia, Meeting Hanissa

I’m drinking my coffee and reading my Bible. The routine is normal, but the setting is different. Outside the birds sing, children’s voices are emerging, church bells ring, and muslim prayers call out through the air. I’m back in Ethiopia.

About Hanissa…

She is charming. Everyone who meets her adores her. She has a beautiful smile and personality.

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Yep, I’m in love! (Admit it, you think she is pretty awesome, too!)

We arrived at the guesthouse, situated on the fourth floor of the orphanage, early Monday morning. We had rested on the 10 hour flight from Beijing. When I say we rested, what I mean is that we slept for pretty much the whole flight.


(Don’t ask why Beijing and Addis are on the wrong side of the globe on the airlines photo.)

On Sunday, the nannies told Hanissa that her American parents were coming to visit. We walked in to find a very happy and excited girl. She was all smiles as she ran up to us. Two of her special friends had gone to America recently with their new parents and Hanissa was ready to leave with us.





From the very beginning, she wanted us to take her out of the orphanage and go away by car. In her mind, we were her parents and she was ready to go. We had several tearful moments throughout the week when she would ask, yet again, to go get in a car. As we explained again that we were not going to take her in a car on this trip, she would cry.

Italy ruled in Ethiopia for a short time, 1935-1941, but the influence is still everywhere. From coffee, good macchiatos are sold everywhere, to language, the Amharic word for car is machina. Because of these words (which are similar enough to Spanish) in everyday Amharic and because Hanissa’s primary nanny is from Kenya and speaks English to the kids, we were able to communicate pretty well. We also learned some important Amharic phrases dealing with food and trips to the bathroom. I would love for Hanissa to keep her Amharic, but I fear she will lose it quickly.

Even with all the added benefits of language, there were still so many things that we couldn’t communicate. We could say no and she understood that word, but we couldn’t express any reason for our answer. The hardest was explaining about the cars.

She would look out the window, see the cars on the road, and very excitedly say, “Machina, machina!” over and over again. She would tug at us trying to get us to understand. We would look at the cars and say, “Yes, we see the cars,” but that isn’t what she wanted. Hanissa looked at us and looked at the cars. A sad, almost sorrowful, expression fell over her face and her voice dropped to a low, mournful whisper, “machina.”

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Since the guesthouse was in the same building as the orphanage, we were able to spend a lot of time (6 to 8 hours a day) together with Hanissa. As the week passed, she mentioned the cars less and less (but always at least twice a day).

It is going to be wonderful to finally be able to bring her home.


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