10 Minutes with UFO

I rode in Frank’s cab today. Time was going to be tight to make my train. And Frank’s car just happened to be there. Serendipity is a beautiful thing. As was our chat.

When he learned I go by my initials, he laughed while telling me that if he followed suit I should call him, UFO.

Uzoka Frank Okey.

Uzoka. It’s my last name. Sounds Japanese, but it’s from Africa.

Where is that? I asked.

I’m from Nigeria, he happily stated.

Uzoka (pronounced oh z’ahh kuh).
Okey (pronounced ‘okay’).

And people are never saying ‘okey’, the right way. But this name is actually okechukwu (okay chew koo), chuku meaning God.

We’re a very Christian country, Nigeria. Lots of names like this.

Okechukwu, God’s creation.
Ikechukwu (ee’kay chew koo) God’s power.
Obichukwu (obee chew koo), God’s heart as in heart warming.

One of my favorite questions to ask just about anybody is, “What should I know about _____________, if I don’t know anything about it.”

I asked UFO what I should know about Nigeria.

It’s a place with a large population. Used to be ruled by the British. A nice warm pleasant country that mismanages its resources. Oil is quite an important one of these resources. And there’s corruption.

But there’s good food. And good weather. People are friendly and can be very boisterous. Often ingenious, always looking for ways to make things better.

Frank mentioned the civil war in the late 60s between Christians and Muslims. And during that time the Christians (the minority group) built a submarine, with only basic tools, which helped to bring peace to the country.

He was proud about his people – people who take pride in making something special happen, with limited resources, in order to make things better.

There was much more to chat about with UFO, but our time was up. Amazing how much ground you can cover with someone in 10 minutes. We both went on our way with smiles on our faces after a few quality moments of sharing stories.

And it’s also amazing how easy it can be for a couple of strangers to share a warm, positive interaction that can make a world full of unidentified foreign objects – or others – feel just a bit smaller.

What was your last warm, positive interaction with a complete stranger? What did you share? What did you learn? How did you feel when you walked away?

Can’t remember? No worries. I bet you’ll have another chance for one of these conversations soon 😉


4 thoughts on “10 Minutes with UFO

  1. What a wonderful post. I have had interesting encounters with seatmates on flights. Many I would have liked to be my friends. On one cross-Atlantic flight that originated in Copenhagen, the man next to me was Lebanese. He could not fly British Airways because his name matched that of someone on the no-fly list or some such thing. He was a Christan, his church in Lebanon had been bombed. I learned from him that Abba means father and sons are named as Abba_______, meaning “son of ______.” I also learned how important family is, and no one would conduct business without first asking about and discussing family. I put this into practice while going through my lengthy dental work, one of my doctors, my endondontist, being from Dubai. His wife had a baby during the time I was undergoing treatment–a most beautiful boy, Mohammad–and the doctor seemed so appreciative that I always asked after his son, looked at pictures, and heard the latest, before we got started on my teeth.

    • Ruth Anne, thanks for writing. What an awesome chat. The naming “son of…” got me thinking about something I remember hearing growing up about many English surnames starting in this way, be it the son of someone based on their name OR based on their profession. I found an interesting list here: http://surnames.behindthename.com/names/usage/english.

      I also stumbled onto Wikipedia, which has some interesting things to share on Matronymic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matronymic) and Patronymic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patronymic) names to convey our lineage.

      I wonder about idea of knowing another’s family. Where one came from. And what all this means today – for us and others. Seems like all we’re generally able to do is look at the snapshots of people as they appear before us where the before and after may matter little. Many of us run from, attempt to erase, while others of us hold onto our past in an overly tight embrace.

      I’m still working this idea out as I write, but, how is it possible to build greater depth in our relationships on a more regular basis? Where we balance the personal and professional, as well as the past and present?

      Perhaps this is all too complex and/or overwhelming in an age of information overload when we don’t have time?

      Which is something I think is cool to see you putting the family first approach into some of these important “business” dealings. I wonder what the world would look like if we did more of that in our professional and personal business?

  2. I think that in many cultures one’s name is connected with one’s forebears, whether named for a special aunt or uncle, or whether the father’s name is the surname. My grandfather was one of 13 children. He and his siblings chose one of three different surnames. One was Olsen (this is the Norwegian spelling, meaning son of Ole), which was their father’s last name. Another was Jacobsen, meaning son of Jacob–their father’s first name. The third was Haugen, which means “the hill,” the name of the community where they lived. This was my grandfather’s last name. A daughter may have taken the surname, Jacobsdottir, or Jacob’s daughter. The connection of a person to family is common to many cultures.

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