Do you like to read heroic tales of overcoming daunting odds to achieve great things? Do you believe that we are past the age of heroes? If you answered yes to either question, you need to read Three Cups of Tea immediately!
Here's the overview of this book. Greg Mortenson was a determined mountain climber on his way back from challenging K2, one of the world's highest and most dangerous peaks in the Himalayas, when he lost his way. He was exhausted from just having helped in the all-but-impossible rescue of one of his fellow climbers. As a result of the second of his mistakes in leaving the so-called trail, Mortenson found himself needing help in a Balti village in Pakistan that he had never heard of, Korphe. The villagers nursed him back to health, and Mortenson began listening to their grievances against the Pakistan government which supported an on-going conflict with India over Kashmir, but did not provide a school for their children. The grateful Mortenson promised to build them a school.
Many people make such promises, but few fulfill them. Mortenson headed back to California and raised the $12,000 he estimated it would take to build the school. With the money in hand, he flew back to Pakistan and started buying supplies. Arriving at the village, his new Balti friends reminded him that there was no bridge to transport the supplies to the village. Mortenson headed back to raise the money for the bridge.
After many more trials, the school was built and a teacher installed. Mortenson had found his life work. He wanted to provide schools for all of the Pakistani children who didn't get an education, especially the girls, who were more likely to stay in their villages and improve living conditions. Everything was difficult. Pakistanis didn't trust him. Muslims thought it was all a plot to convert children to Christianity. Some wanted bribes. People in the United States were generally opposed to helping Muslims unless they had been climbers in that part of the Himalayas. Mortenson got hate mail. But he persevered.
Eventually, his vision expanded to helping with water projects and to providing scholarships for higher education for those who graduated from the schools he built.
Conditions in Afghanistan also called out to him, and he established a similar program there.
But his slim efforts were being overwhelmed by madrassas funded with Saudi money that were often used to recruit and train terrorists. His life changed forever when in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan Parade Magazine wrote an article about his efforts to secure a lasting peace in the region by supporting moderate Muslims with educational aid.
This book is powerfully coauthored by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I seldom recall reading such an excellent story about serving humanity in a selfless secular way that isn't tied to a religious vocation.
The book's title refers to a story that Mortenson learned from those who wanted him to slow down and stop acting like an American: The local people wanted to ally with him, and he was trying to run everything. Results improved when he stepped back and became an ally instead of an authoritarian leader.
Here's the basis of the reference: Haji Ali, his first Balti friend, told Mortenson that he had to respect Balti ways. "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 tea, you are family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die."
May God bless the authors, their families, and those who work with Mr. Mortenson to expand the light of education to those who wish to see with it.
on February 17, 2008
I have been a voracious reader from a very young age. However, I must say that Greg Mortenson's story, presented so eloquently in "Three Cups of Tea", is without a doubt one of the most inspirational and moving books I've ever read. His heart, wisdom, and profound knowledge base could transform our world if people were willing to take his message to heart. He presents an avenue toward peace
that is both deceptively simple and incredibly accurate. I wish every politician, and all people everywhere, would read this book and I challenge them to defy it's inherent logic. In addition, it is simply a terrific read, and one that I found impossible to put down until I had finished it. The ripples of that experience will extend far into my future. I look forward to the day when Mortenson wins the Nobel Peace Prize that he so richly and undeniably deserves. My life has been forever altered by this book, and I encourage everyone to read it and to continue to spread the profound messages within it's pages.
on October 20, 2007
I will not write a long review..the first reviewers have done a lofty job. I simply want to tell you all that this book may very well change your life, and will definitely change the way you see "the enemy". Mortenson's insight into the inner workings of the area's tribes, leaders, and people will make you realize just how much we are, indeed, in this world together looking for common human experiences, and goals. Do read this book and I belive you too will be telling everyone you know that they may miss an incredible read if they do not give it a try. I plan on sending a few out as Xmas gifts to my "wordly" friends.
on January 22, 2008
Taken to heart this book can have as profound an influence on the war on terrorism as Uncle Tom's Cabin did on the institution of slavery. This book can be celebrated on many levels. First, it's a great read if for no other reason its worth buying for that reason alone. But this story has other merits. It is these other merits that will push it into the history books as a impetus for peace.
Greg Mortenson's work in Pakistan and Afghanistan building schools for the education of both girls and boys combats lives of poverty and the sewing of the seeds of terrorism. Education provides a countries' children with the tools to improve their lives more than just financially. Balanced education and the ability to think elevates them beyond superstition and propaganda. The extremists in the middle east who scream for jihad run the madrassas. They offer education as well but for boys only and these students are instilled with a hatred of the west and a call to holy war. Greg Mortenson gives us a way that can make peace. Within the boundaries of Pakistan and Afghanistan his work is respected far more than anything done by the US or it's allies.
The pages in Three Cups of Tea also bring to life this foreign land allowing a stranger a glimpse into this other world that impacts our own so strongly. In finishing this book this reader has come away with a greater understanding of the hearts of the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan far beyond what I have ever gleaned from the news or political commentary.
This book is not a call to arms but a call to pencils. After all the pen is mightier than the sword and with determination and support of a hero like Greg Mortenson maybe peace is possible.
These words, spoken by Pakistani Brigadier General Bashir, symbolize an underlying thread in this extraordinary story. The fight against ignorance resulting from illiteracy and complete lack of economic resources is the primary theme of award-winning Journalist David Oliver Relin's account of a man with a mission: Greg Mortenson. Ignorance of local culture and customs, racial and religious prejudice are intimately linked to the failures in achieving lasting peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Education of the young, and in particular girls, are offered as an essential tool against ignorance. Building schools in remote and isolated regions of Pakistan has been Mortenson's passion for 13 years. Relin traces Mortenson's travels and encounters for a period of two years, interviewing many friends - and a few sceptics - along the way and recording months of discussions with Mortenson himself. The result is an action-packed adventure story with a deep moral and emotional centre. It depicts ten years in the life of a man who turned failure into strength, growing into a great humanitarian and dedicated fighter for the rights of tens of thousands forgotten poor in the tribal areas of this powder keg region of Central Asia.
Overcoming ignorance has also been a leitmotiv for Greg himself. After abandoning his climb to the top of K2, the second largest mountain in the world, he had lost his guide and then his way on the descent. Close to exhaustion, he reached Korphe, a small village high up in the Karakoram range of the Himalayas. As the villagers nurtured him back to strength he became increasingly aware of the extreme poverty of the region and the dire conditions of the children's school. The village could not afford a school building and a teacher for only three days a week at $1 a day. The children sat on the ground in the open scratching the writing they had learned in the packed earth. Mortenson was touched by the warmth and generosity that the people had offered him and promised them to come back and build a school.
The obstacle course that Mortenson undertook to raise the funds for the school is vividly shared with us. Starting from nothing, living out of his car to save money to a benefactor's surprise gift, he managed to raise the funds to return to Korphe with the building materials stockpiled in a nearby town. Haji Ali, the Korphe village elder, accepts "Dr. Greg" into his family, recognizing his special qualities. The old man, himself illiterate, has a few lessons to share with him, important advice that will lead to the successful completion of the Korphe school three years later. The fundamental lesson was patience and listening: patience to develop relationships with the local community, sensitivity to local traditions and customs; listening to what the people had to say first and, with them, finding solutions to the problem at hand. It would also mean that real partnerships for school building developed where the local people put up the sweat equity to match his funds for building materials. Learning from his mistakes and initial naiveté Dr. Greg becomes a successful catalysts for building many more schools in other remote villages in Pakistan and later in Afghanistan. Over time, other essential programs, such as women vocational centres are also added.
Each return trip to Pakistan was a major step forward for Mortenson and his school program. What had started as a simple promise to one village, became his all-absorbing mission. The more he learned the more he became convinced that balanced, "non-extremist" education of children, and in particular girls, is a major building block in peace-building in the region. He found his vision mirrored that of many local leaders: village elders, mullahs, including the supreme leader of northern Pakistan's Shias, politicians and senior military officers. Increasingly, as his work became known, he could count on their participation and advice. They provided essential support when two fatwas were issued against him that would have forced him to leave the country. He opened a local office for his Central Asia Institute, staffed with a diverse group of advocates of his program, who took over the day-to-day management while he was "commuting" to the home base in Montana to raise the necessary funds.
Even since 9/11 and the war against the Taliban, Mortenson was able to continue his work, much admired by his local network of supporters. Relin's interviews confirm the overwhelmingly warm and positive attitude of local people toward the American Mortenson. Negative reactions, though, came from within the US, where people attacked him for "supporting the enemy". Mortenson stood his ground, arguing that lasting peace and security around the world can only be gained through education of the younger generations. Finally in 2003, following a major article on his work in Parade magazine, the tide turned for him also in the US. Donations poured into his small foundation, securing his ever expanding work.
"Three Cups of Tea" is not only a moving and heart-warming personalized story of what one person can achieve with determination and persistence. It is also a portrait of a part of the world that we should all know more about so that we learn to differentiate between enemy and friend. [Friederike Knabe]
on June 12, 2007
The greatest spiritual teaching of aboriginal peoples and organised religion is that if we can open our hearts, we will help ourselves and others.
In "Three Cups of Tea", as told by Greg Mortensen and written by David Relin, nurse and mountaineer Greg Mortensen, begins this spiritual and practical journey to healing and helping by getting lost on the trail to the base camp of K2 not once, but twice, finally finding himself in a small village whose members nurse him back to health, and inspire him to his life's work: building schools for children.
The schools he builds, and the story of their building, is one of the most amazing adventure stories I have ever read. This book has everything: real-life kidnappings, fatwas declared by mullahs, love, war, nail biting descriptions of mountaineering, wise village elders, corrupt local officials, smugglers, kings and fools. All told with deft and exciting prose beautifully crafted by Relin.
"Three Cups of Tea" is also an amazing political treatise, offering the humble yet powerful arguement that educating impoverished children in Pakistan and Afghanistan, with a balanced, non-extremist cirriculum over the course of a generation, will make us all safer than launching Tomahawk missiles armed with Rayeon guidance systems. And he focuses on education of girls because they are the most likely to stay in their communities, passing their knowledge and strength on.
His journey offers proof. It is an uneducated mullah who declares a fatwa on Moretensen. And it is uneducated mullahs who are preventing girls and women from education and a voice in Islamic life. The Islamic bible, the Holy Koran, does not agree with these practices, and Mortensen's story will hopefully spread that good word to as many westerners as possible.
In fact, in a charged and hilarious section of the book, the Supreme Council of Mullahs, after careful scrutiny of Mortensen's work and behaviour, lifts the fatwa on Mortensen; "Dear Compassionate of the Poor, our Holy Korn tells us all children should receive education, including our daughters and sisters. Your noble work follows the highest principles of Islam, to tend to the poor and sick.".... "Therefore, we direct all the clerices in Pakistan to not interfere with your noble intentions. You have our permission, blessings, and prayers."
Unfortuantely, many people in the United States, inside politics and out, do not share the appreciation of the work Mortensen and his agency is doing. The book tells us that less than one quarter of the money President Bush has promised has actually arrived in Afghanistan, and of that , $680 million has been 'redirected' to bulk up preparations for the invasion of Iraq. Mortensen shares some of the hate email he receives from Americans, who brand him a traitor for siding with the enemy.
And in a briliant segment, Mortensen and Relin tell of the anger that Mortensen finally expresses, in a presentation for Congress. He starts to speak about teachers in Afghanistan not having any salary for months, no schools at all, poverty, and the importance of America keeping its promises. He tells them of the millions of dollars being spent by Saudi sheiks in Pakistan and Afghanistan to build the Whahabi madrassas, many of them extremist schools of jihad, and of money brought in by the suitcase to fuel the war on America.
Mortensen is interrupted, mid-sentence, by a Republican Congressman, who challenges him; "Building schools for children is fine and dandy, but our primary need as a nation now is for security. Without security, what does all this matter?"
"I don't do what I am doing to fight terror," Mortensen said, measuring his words, trying not to get get himself kicked out of Congress. "I do it because I care for kids. Fighting terror is maybe seventh or eigth on my list of prioitites. But working over there, I've learned a few things. I've learned that terror doesn't happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan decide to hate us. It happens because children aren't being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death."
Mortensen's journey is brilliantly written by David Relin in "Three Cups of Tea." Never preachy, always exciting, often humourous and ironic, Relin's prose is on point, focused and alive.
This book should be on the cirriculum of each and every high school in North America, both for its inspiration of what one person can do, and for its lesson that education brings self-sustainment, fullfillment, and peace.
on January 1, 2008
Greg Mortensen is amazing. He has singlehandedly discovered the way to making world peace happen, by providing education to the poor and marginalized peoples of Central Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Through no small risk to himself, Mortensen is giving the tribal peoples of that region a balanced, free education which is an alternative to the system of extremist madrassas which pour thousands of indoctrinated young men into terrorist armies each year.
Why, oh why, can't a few of the billions spent on the military might of the USA and their allies be diverted to education?
This is really a terrific book - I could not put it down - and it should be required reading for everyone - especially those engaged in the activities of war. Greg Mortenson deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
on September 13, 2008
Three Cups of Tea should be required reading for everyone.... it helps to better understand the daily dose of sobering news from Pakistan and Afghanistan - and offers a glimmer of practical hope.
on August 25, 2008
I just have to say, the story of Greg Mortenson and what he has done to improve the lives of the people in Central Asia is awe-inspiring and humbling. We are so conditioned to believe that one person can't make a difference that to read a tale that you know happened, makes it even more incredible.
I will be encouraging all my friends to read this book and learn of the peoples we all too easily just lump together as "terrorists" following 9/11. Hopefully we will be able to contribute in some way to helping stop the violence over in central asia with schools instead of soldiers even just a little bit sooner.
on April 29, 2010
I read this book late from my own standards. So much has already been written and shared as reviews on this book that I am sure I can't have any further value addition
There are two great learnings from this account. One is quite obvious in that Greg Mortenson has done and is continuing to do great work by building schools, especially for education of girls, in one of the most ruggedly beautiful yet poorest regions of the world. You get to know about the region; which by the way is an adventure traveller's paradise; its people, their culture, and their problems. You also get to know about Talibans, their agenda, the post 9/11 situation and how limited the knowledge of the problems of the region the western world has.
However, there is another learning from the account, that at a personal level. The account of Mortenson is of courage, determination, perseverance, and love for not only the near and dear ones but also of strange people in strange lands and to be able to relate to them. This story can be used for character building and bringing oneself up again after a day or a period of depression. When you read about Mortenson's living on subsistence means, threat to life (yes he was abducted by Talibans), living away from his wife and children for long periods of time, initial failures in budgeting, getting funds, and attracting audience to his presentations only because of one great objective in mind to help others, you can't help but to grow stronger as a person yourself.