The above picture was taken in Ethiopia, a few days after meeting Mikias. We were at the Addis Ababa Hilton, a short drive from the orphanage where he lived, but it may as well have been another planet. It was his first visit to a pool (where he kept trying to take off his new swim trunks...he didn't want to get them wet!) and this was his first ice cream. He didn't care for it that day, but soon after arriving home, vanilla ice cream became one of the new loves of Mikias's life.
Early spring, when the ice cream shops opened for the season, one of the highlights of our day was to go out for ice cream. We pulled into one of our favorites, The Country Whip, to get the usual, a small vanilla in a cup, no sprinkles. There were two women ahead of us in line. One was an average looking mom type, and the other a twenty something woman with a lot of facial piercings and vivid pink hair.
Immediately, Mikias began tapping me on the arm, pointing at the younger woman, saying "What is that....her face?" With his limited English, he tried to find the words to ask about the woman's appearance. I told him it was 'decoration' for her face. I then spoke the the woman, I told her that we had recently adopted Mikias from Ethiopia and that he hadn't seen anyone else with facial piercing or pink hair and that I hoped we didn't make her feel uncomfortable. She was sweet and told me she didn't mind a bit.
At this point, the other woman spoke.
"You just adopted him? His English is quite good"
I told her that he had been home a few months and that his English was indeed coming along quickly.
She then asked his name and I told her it was Mikias.
"What?" she asked with a tone that was not pleasant.
"Mikias" I repeated
At this point Mikias was very tuned into the conversation and started saying his name slowly over and over.
"Me-kee-iss , Me-kee- iss"
"You aren't going to Americanize that?" this time in a tone that conveyed disapproval
"Me-kee-iss" repeated my son
"You could call him, Mick or Mickey or even Mike!" she said trying to help me out.
"ME-KEE-ISS" repeated my boy, a bit louder
I finally said to her, "His name is Mikias, we love his name and we are not going to change it. Ever."
Mikias and I got in the car and I was trying not to show Mikias how steamed I was.
As I buckled him in, he pointed at the woman and said, "That one, right there, she is....trash?" Trash was Mikias's word for anything negative.
"No Mikias, she's not trash...she's stupid trash!"
He laughed hard, big belly laughter. I laughed too. I was so happy to be able to show Mikias that I was on his team, always, no matter what.
I learned that day to never make excuses for other peoples rudeness or ignorance. We will call 'em like we see 'em.