Alastair Cook - Living On A Cultural Faultline

The following are extracts from Alastair Cook's field journals. We wrote about his effort to chronicle his adventures for his stories in A Father's Passion. In the following outtakes Alastair writes about the daily life of a WFP Logistics Officer during the flooding in Kenya in late 2006. At the time of writing his daughters were 15 and 12 years of age.

12th December, 2006 – Garissa
Life is settling into a routine now… up at 6am, the same old cold shower followed by the same (nice) breakfast…helicopters airborne by 0730 am… blah, blah, blah… the weather seems the same… bloody hot all the time… my factor 25 is saving me from becoming something resembling a dried tomato… if somebody asks me where I’ve been holiday I might scream! However I love what I’m doing, on my feet all day in a challenging environment, being the one that makes split minute decisions that might have life changing ramifications is really rewarding… I feel I am running an airline on my own!

13th December, 2006
On a more positive note I have come to respect the Ukrainian flight crews, not a cowboy in sight. Each chopper has a Captain, Co-pilot and Flight Engineer… the entire contingent for the two choppers consists of 3 Captains, 2 Co-pilots and 3 Engineers so they rotate for days off. Two of the Captains are obviously very experienced, Andrij (Andrew to you and me) has done over 13,000 hours on this aircraft type and was flying in Somalia in ’93… he is good to work with. The other ‘old dog’ is Sergei, he explained to me the other day that he has had 4 turbine failures, on 3 occasions it was single a turbine failure and on the other it was a twin turbine failure… he was alive to tell me so he has my respect as a pilot.

23rd December, 2006 – Garissa
Time marches relentlessly on and 2007 is looming large, however not much changes in Garissa. The weather remains much the same everyday, fortunately we haven’t had a great deal rain lately and this will really help us in getting roads reopened and trucks full of food to isolated villages. I now have a thermometer which is placed in a tree at the airport, the daily maximum is 33 – 35’C. Most days begin with heavy cloud cover which pushes up the humidity, at about midday the cloud disperses and the sun becomes very intense, by 5pm it cools a little and it’s dark by 6:30pm.

Yesterday was our busiest day of all, as more NGO’s are responding to the emergency the activity at the airport increases correspondingly. At one stage we had six active aircraft on the apron, the Buffalo, Dash 8, King Air 200, Kenya Air Force Puma (helicopter) and two Mi-8 helicopters, additionally there were also two Kenya Wildlife Service aircraft available for support functions. It seems such a long time ago when I arrived and there was nothing and now we have a small ‘village’ with about 100 people working there plus storage for over 1,000 tons of food and we have over 100,000 litres of fuel on site, enough for one week.

26th December, 2006
Well Christmas has come and gone, a very quiet day indeed. Christmas lunch consisted of two beers and a packet of crisps… but not just any crisps… Pringles no less! We gave the flight crews the day off so the hotel was full of people with nothing to do; I think that working would really have been a better option. Today our operation is back to normal which makes me feel a lot better. Over the weekend a number of 4x4 Bedford trucks arrived from Uganda which will be used on the Garissa – Dadaab road, so that should help ease the congestion here in Garissa. That about wraps things up at my end so… Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.