Three Cups of Tea – Book Review

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time, By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Three Cups of Tea coverThree cups of tea is the story of an accidental philanthropist and peace/education advocate. Greg Mortenson was a climber who failed to summit K2 after having to rescue another climber in his group on the ascent. On the descent he got separated from the group and from his porter. He made it down the mountain, but made a wrong turn and instead of ending up in the larger town of Skadu, wandered into the small village of Korphe, where he was taken care of while he recuperated. Before he left, he offered to send supplies to their school as a thank you, and was taken and shown what their ‘school’ was: teacher-less children (they shared a teacher with another village) sitting on the ground, doing their lessons on their own with sticks in the dirt. He vowed then that, one way or another, he would build them a school, and thus began an all-encompassing drive to educate and empower the children of the Pakistani hinterlands, particularly the girls.

Reading this book I frequently got the feeling that this HAD to be fiction, it simply was too crazy to be believed. The amount of drive Mortenson had was unbelievable; he did the impossible again and again. Discussing the book at my book club last night, one of my friends admitted that he almost made her feel bad about herself. She is teaching in an extremely difficult school on the South Side of Chicago, and he made her feel almost inadequate for being tired at the end of the day and not doing more than what she is currently doing. It was easy to get pulled into this type of thinking: Mortenson was practically living in his car while trying to raise the money for his first school, it really makes you question what you’ve been doing with your life all this time. It also makes you want to send him money.

Perhaps one of the most powerful things about the book was the interaction Greg had with the people of Pakistan. It really came across how much he had learned from them, and how he learned to be a humble servant, not the arrongant American coming to ‘save’ them. He had a great respect for their culture, and I think it would be beneficial to our country if more Americans would read books like this one, where they come into contact with REAL people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries in that region, where they could have an opportunity to see these people as fellow human beings. Most of the people with whom Mortenson was in contact just wanted their children to be educated and to have more options than they did – not so different from people in America. It was very heartening to see the mutual love and respect between Mortenson and the people with whom he was working. He was actually in Pakistan on 9/11 and all of his friends kept sympathizing with him for what had happened in ‘the village of New York’. The US Embassy kept urging him to leave, but Mortenson’s friends in Pakistan were protecting him with their lives.

After 9/11 Mortenson became an even stronger advocate for education, now as a way to combat terrorism. He lobbied Congress to get them to keep their promises of rebuilding Afghanistan, telling them, essentially, that they had to give people a reason to choose life over a fighter’s death. Perhaps if they had listened to him, the Taliban wouldn’t be making a comeback there now.

Buy this book on Amazon: Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

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