Monday, March 21, 2011
Book Review: Three Cups of Tea
After a failed attempt to climb K2, mountaineer Greg Mortenson, lost, hungry and dangerously cold, wonders into a Pakistan village. Taken in by the village chief, the discouraged and confused climber is fed, warmed by the hut’s fire and given a place to sleep. He awakes to a new world, a new life.
Three Cups of Tea, One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin is a remarkable story of tenacity, courage, and humanitarianism to the extreme.
Third world countries aren’t new to Mortenson. Born of American missionary parents, he spent his youth in Tanzania, Africa. His acceptance of the lack of creature comforts–familiar food, clean clothes, warmth–enable him to achieve what many simply could not do. Creature comforts aside, Mortenson treads, sometimes fearfully but nevertheless steadfastly, into situations that enable him to learn what he can do to make a difference–provide schools, particularly for girls.
Mortenson’s first attempt results in disappointment, logistical nightmares, and serious funding concerns. Many people would quit before completing a project this immense. But Mortenson listens and learns, finding ways to do business in a country fraught with stark poverty, hostile terrain, and war.
Among the many messages Mortenson sends to his fellow Americans is that “Muslim” is not synonymous with “terrorism,” that the true core tenants of Islam are justice, tolerance and charity. What we in America hear and fear is what extremists have done in the name of Islam.
Haji Ali, Korphe village chief, the man who initially gave Mortenson shelter and in whose village Mortenson built his first school, said, “Here (in Pakistan and Afghanistan) we drink three cups of tea to do business: the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family and for our family we are prepared to do anything...even die.”
Three Cups of Tea is a memorable story. As our untitled ambassador, Mortenson’s unbelievable hardships and determination are something all Americans can be proud of. His passion shines like the stars he has so often slept under. His story shows what one man can do to make a difference, one school at a time. To learn more about Greg Mortenson’s work, visit the Central Asia Institute, www.ikat.org