Sunday, November 14, 2010

Three Cups of Tea

This weeks book, Three Cups of Tea, is one that I have noticed for several weeks, but has been continually overlooked for one reason or another. This week, however, when I actually read what it was about, and skimmed through it, it looked too interesting to pass by for another week. written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, Three Cups of Tea is the inspiring account of one man's campaign to build schools in the most dangerous, remote, and anti-American reaches of Asia. It is captivating and suspenseful, with engrossing accounts of both hostilities and unlikely friendships, and will win many readers' hearts.

In 1993 Greg Mortenson was the exhausted survivor of a failed attempt to ascend K2, an American climbing bum wandering emaciated and lost through Pakistan's Karakoram Himalaya. After he was taken in and nursed back to health by the people of an impoverished Pakistani village, Mortenson promised to return one day and build them a school. From that rash, earnest promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time—Greg Mortenson's one-man mission to counteract extremism by building schools, especially for girls, throughout the breeding ground of the Taliban. As it chronicles Mortenson's quest, which has brought him into conflict with both enraged Islamists and uncomprehending Americans, Three Cups of Tea combines adventure with a celebration of the humanitarian spirit.

Award-winning journalist David Oliver Relin has collaborated on this spellbinding account of Mortenson's incredible accomplishments in a region where Americans are often feared and hated. In pursuit of his goal, Mortenson has survived kidnapping, fatwas issued by enraged mullahs, repeated death threats, and wrenching separations from his wife and children. But his success speaks for itself. At last count, his Central Asia Institute had built fifty-five schools. Three Cups of Tea is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring true story of how one man really is changing the world—one school at a time.

Throughout the chapters of Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson describes everything from his climbing experiences, to his relationships with everyone from his wife to village leaders. Although I am interested in mountain climbing, and would one day like to climb one of the worlds great peaks, I found it difficult to become fully engaged when that part of the journey was being discussed. When Mortenson was describing his personal relationships however, I was enthralled. My favorite anecdotes were formed between Mortenson and the Korphe Village Chief, Haji Ali. There was so much wisdom and simplicity passed from Haji Ali to Mortenson, it became hard not to take his words into account in my own life.

"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." --Haji Ali

Mortenson later reflects on Haji Ali's words. “We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly… Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them.” This is such an important and fundamental lesson, that too often gets overlooked.

My favorite word is phantasmagorical, meaning a series of dreamlike images. I discovered it in junior high while using a thesaurus, and it has stuck with me ever since. I have never before seen it in print, until this book. It appeared in the second half, and when I came across it I was so happy that I kept coming back to that page to re-read it. It reminded me of The Book of Awesome, something so small and simple as coming across your favorite word in your book, but it has the power to make your day. That's awesome.

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