My nickname - Udoh Ukot

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Story 1 U da cut is what I heard. I didn't speak much Annang, but I did have 12 community farms and this was probably my 8th meeting to hear how a village was going to weed the oil palm at that time of year. I did listen to the speakers, even if I didn't understand anything. I certainly had not heard this often repeated phrase before and wondered if it was some sort of new trouble that the translator was not telling me about. That is when I discovered my nickname.



Ikot Ekepene is noted for its raffia palm wine. A couple of months before this meeting, my Nigeria XVI friend Mike S came from the Western Region to visit me for a week. We attended a village ceremony celebrating a new road they had built to receive oil palm seedlings. This was my favorite village, my most remote. There was lots of food and I vaguely remember the entire village dancing around two lanterns set up on tall stools to a percussion band. All the women and children and most men had left this big party well before 8 in the evening. I think it was a school day.

Since this is a short story, I basically challenged the village maker of native gin (called either white lightening, kai kai, ufop fop or #1) to a drinking contest. With the second (or was it the 3rd?) full tumbler, I realized that I was going to be able to finish it without taking a gulp of air. My foggy brain understood this would not be a good idea because it would mean another full glass of white lightening would follow. So I removed the glass from my mouth with a great flourish, then with another flourish drank the rest and turned the tumbler upside down on our drinking stool.

"Akpan Ukot" said the winner of the competition. My friend the teacher translated "He is saying you are the first son of wine." Well I knew enough to say "No, he is Akpan Ukot, I am Udoh Ukot". Loosely translated Akpan is first and Udoh Ukot "the second son of wine".

When I realized I had a nickname

Back at the meeting,Fabian, my trusty cook who sometimes traveled with me, was translating what the community was saying. I quietly asked him about this word "U da cut". He started to laugh and the meeting came to a halt. He first explained to the village what I had asked and they all started laughing. With a somewhat earnest expression he said, "Sir, you remember that village celebration, when you drank with that man?" How could I forget the massive hangover I had the next day cured by a breakfast of eggs, fried plaintains and some really HOT sauce. "Sir, That is the way these people say Udoh Ukot", concluded my trusty translator.

Living up to a nickname

Being "a son of palm wine" has it's responsibilities. Actually, I did take an interest in learning about different aspects of the raffia palm that Ikot Ekpene was known for. I knew many of the uses of the raffia palm and how it differed from the more numerous oil palm trees. The wine from an oil palm tree was very different and it's fron did not have a membrane that could be removed like the raffia. I could tell how old the raffia wine was and some of the drinking customs around it.

I remember being at a post community farm meeting at another village. At some point my host, the Obong (chief) was asking me about which area had the best raffia palm wine in Ikot Ekpene. I dodged the question.

He then poured another glass of raffia wine out of a new jug one of his wives had just brought in. He asked me where the wine came from. I would like to say that I recognized where it came from by it bouquet, color and the size of the bubbles or even the markings on the jug. In truth, I used my knowledge of local markets to make a wild guess, which I thought would be humorous. I picked an area that would attend the local market that morning but was on the opposite side of the market area from the Obong.

The Obong laughed at my guess and told me it came from his own trees outside the house. I told him a glass from the first jug did not taste the same as the one he just gave me. I was bluffing. He called out to the kitchen to find out where the wine came from. He was told they were afraid they would not have enough raffia wine for the next 3 days and had indeed bought a large jug from the market. As luck would have it (or someone in the kitchen wanted me to look good) the second jug was purchased from a seller who came from the area I had guessed. I took full credit for the counter intuitive guess.

It was funny, after that people were always asking me where the raffia wine came from. Sometimes I would joke around, dodge the question with an community farm question of my own, then come back to considering the wine. Maybe requesting my glass be filled again and then shaking my head that the second pouring came out of a different Star beer bottle, so how could I really be sure it was the same? Part of my plan during the discussion of my community farm question was to emptied the rest of the first bottle into other people's tumblers. And alas, I would say it took two glasses for a European to tell where the wine came from and I could only drink two glasses.

Post Script

I was trained, well there was an attempt to train me, to speak Igbo. However I was stationed in Ikot Ekepene Division, Annang Provence, Eastern Region as the Rural Development Officer. Annang was as close to Ibo as English is to Russian. All this took place in 1966.--Rcollman 17:12, 28 October 2007 (EST)

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