I started reading Three Cups of Tea as I took my 17 year old son for what we both hoped was his last orthopedist’s appointment due to a broken ankle. I had picked it up in my summer reading pile. I have read many books about life in the Middle East but most of my reading has been fiction, albeit fiction based on fact but novels none the less. I was not sure that novels were the way our culture should see into the culture of societies that had become so linked with ours in not so good ways. Hence, picking up Three Cups of Tea which, in paperback, bears the subtitle One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time.
The non-fiction book is written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The story is all Mortenson’s. He was a climber early in his life. He tried to climb K2. He climbed many other mountains in the region but his failed attempt is what changed his life forever. The change was not because of the failure but because of where he wandered and ended up. He wound up in the Pakistani village of Korphe in the Baltistan region. He promised, as his recuperation ended and he prepared to return to what was his life, to return and build the village a school.
Throughout the book, the focus is always on the work that is being done in Pakistan and later Afghanistan. The book is not about Mortenson, though he is the main character. He was in Pakistan when 9/11 happened. He knew, from the beginning, that not all Muslims were extremists. He faced his share of problems in building schools in foreign lands, especially foreign lands that “we” – as in the US government - do not like. His ability to fundraise was not innate. It had to be nurtured. His ability to live with death threats because he said that education, not war, was the answer to fighting terrorism was difficult to read about. His belief that his work through the Central Asia Institute – established after his first school was built – would change the world and definitely the fate of young women in Pakistan never wavered.
Throughout his fundraising efforts for CAI, Mortenson has raised money in many ways. As a former developement director for a non-profit, I know how difficult it is to raise monies and my job was probably easier as it was for something nearby. Pennies for Peace is one way that there has been money raised to go to CAI and its schools.
Please read the book. It is essential in our, as US citizens, living in a global community. It is definitely a story that needs support. We need to realize that what we should be fearing is not terrorism but ignorance – ignorance by us of the pain we have inflicted around Central Asia, ignorance by us of the fact that those who are educated, and not necessarily to US standards, are bettering their own lives and don’t want to harm us.