Nov 18, 2010

Three Cups of Tea

by David Oliver Relin

In 1993 mountain climber Greg Mortenson went to Pakistan to climb one of the world's most forbidding peaks, K2. His attempt failed, and during the descent he lost the trail and stumbled into a remote village. The villagers nursed him back to health, and during his stay Mortenson was moved by their compassion for a stranger, and also by their need. He saw children attempting to hold classes in the open air, scratching their lessons in the dirt, and promised the villagers to one day return and build them a school.

Back in America, Mortenson stumbled about attempting to raise money for the school, and when by a mixture of luck and determination he'd scraped together enough, he returned and made good his promise. A lot of the book seems to be about his mistakes. He had no experience fundraising, or constructing buildings, or running a non-profit organization, but the failures left him undaunted and he kept on until his goals were reached. After the first school he went on to build more across the region and into Afghanistan. With the help of donors and volunteers, his one-man effort grew into a charitable organization that not only built schools but also bridges and community centers, laid pipes to bring water into villages, paid teacher's salaries, established medical clinics and assisted refugees. I was amazed that he continued to travel through areas that were dangerous after war broke out, and how many times he got himself into frightening situations. His understanding of the local culture and aptitude for learning the language helped a lot. And the people overcame their suspicion of American foreigners when they saw that he simply wanted to help their children become educated. I think part of his rapport with the locals also came about because he didn't just bulldoze in and take over. He sat down to meet with tribal leaders, and got the communities involved- most of the villages donated land for their schools and supplied labor to do the construction themselves. Three Cups of Tea is a wonderfully inspiring story about how one man's dedication to help those in need. The latter part of the book was a bit harder for me to read; what with all the conflicts and bombings, but I did love seeing how near the end Mortenson returned to some of the villages where he'd first built schools and saw children who were ready to move on to a higher education, who wanted to become teachers or nurses themselves, who had already thanks to their schooling, been able to help their communities. It's amazing what a difference he made.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 349 pages, 2006

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9 comments:

bermudaonion said...

This does sound like a wonderful story.

Jenny said...

Wow, good for him! I'd seen this book and vaguely knew what went on in it, but I missed hearing about the part where the village had helped him first. That's actually really touching, that he went back so persistently to make their lives better.

Janet said...

I'm reading the "young reader" version of the story right now. I remember not finishing the original version a year or so ago, maybe because it seemed political or something. But I'm really enjoying the story now.

Jeane said...

Bermudaonion- It was. Some parts hard to get through, but an amazing story to read about.

Jenny- I know! I was amazed that he not only fulfilled that promise, but then felt inspired to continue and help so many more children in need.

Janet- I didn't know there was a juvenile version. Does it have more photographs? The second half of the book was, yes, very political. It made it a bit tough but I'm glad I finished.

Liou said...

Interesante...

Eva said...

I tried to read this a couple of years ago, but his writing style just drove me crazy! I still think it's a good story, just not for me. ;)

Amanda said...

I've heard a lot of people complain about the writing style, which worries me. I hear there are some younger adaptations that might do away with some of those issues, so I might try that instead...

Literary Feline said...

Mortenson sounds like such a great person. I'm glad he was able to do so much for those children. I keep going back and forth about whether to read this book. It definitely sounds like an inspiring story.

Jeane said...

Amanda- Personally I quite liked the writing style. In many aspects (especially the descriptions) it felt more like a novel than non-fic. I didn't mind that though, I enjoyed it. But I think it would throw some readers off because they can't tell where the author was being creative and where sticking to the truth?

Literary Feline- His generosity, determination and inspiring motives are what make this a good story. Without those elements, due to the political parts and warfare, I probably wouldn't have gotten thru it myself.