October 05, 2011

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson's book is just that, inspiring. A climber who was attempting K2, Mortenson, after an ill fated climb ends up in a small village at the base of K2, not where he was intending to go at all. He had made the climb in dedication to his sister Christa, who is deceased. The people at the village treated him fairly and took him in and cared for him after he was weakened by the climb and he was inspired to do something in return for them.

Thus began his mission that took several years and is still ongoing of bringing schools to the small villages around Pakistan. It took several years and a lot of the time Mortenson lived out of his car, however, he achieved much and was trusted in a land that at the time was not in friendly terms with our country.

His efforts produced many schools and brought together many people. It made a difference for women as well, bringing education that was originally unheard of for them. Part of his negotiations were that all children would receive an education, not just the sons. Surprisingly, everyone readily agreed to this stipulation, showing that the media coverage we see does not always fit the society as a whole. The only ones who didn't agree were some Islamic Mullahs (a sort of Muslim priest) who wanted to control their villages through religion. Their decisions were overrode by a higher authority for the country.

This book details the hardships and the triumphs that Mortenson had to face as he began this work of charity. The ways he had to procure donors and his own problems with keeping his family together when he was so far away in a war-torn area. It shows his compassion and the help of those who made his dream a reality. In particular, for his first school, he ran into a lot of trouble keeping the supplies. The first time he bought supplies they were pirated by a nearby village under the pretense of keeping them safe for him over the winter. When he returned, a great portion of them were gone. They also fought him on the location of the school as they wanted it for their own village, and not for the mountain village he was taking it to.

Another hardship he faced was his kidnapping by a Taliban group. They never harmed him physically luckily, but he was held for several days until they finally released him. He was released largely because they were appreciative of what he was doing for their children.

He encounters a lot of hostility during his travels, but strangely enough, most of it is in America rather than Pakistan. A lot of people were outraged by his helping Muslims when we are at war with them. What they failed to realize was that they were judging all Muslims by the extremists, not those who follow the true religion. It would be like comparing Christian cults to all Christians. The extremists do not make the group and it was wonderful to see him keep going despite this adversity.

The title itself is based on a proverb of sorts for the Pakistani. Three cups of tea describes the relationships between friends, acquaintances, family and strangers. In keeping with this, he is largely treated like family throughout the novel by the numerous villages he visits.

"The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family"

In this book we also see the formation of the Central Asia Institute. It is the name of the charity that he founds for putting together these schools and procuring the donors. To date, the CAI has put together more than 55 schools in the Pakistani area. Its major benefactor, Jean Hoerni, has since died from Leukemia and left a substantial amount to keep the Montana based charity funded.

I definitely recommend reading this book. I picked it up on a whim and learned a great deal from it. Not only about the Pakistani, but about the goodness in people as well. It makes you keep on hoping. While I never thought too much on Pakistan before this it did open my eyes to a complete new world. While it is not my charity of choice, had I been looking to take on another one, this would be it. Mortenson has the ability to make you feel for these people despite any differences in religion, creed, or nationality.

Three Cups of Tea
Published in 2006
337 pages

No comments:

Post a Comment