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Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson, David O. Relin (Viking, 2006)
“Three Cups of Tea” grows on you. It begins with a story reminiscent of early accounts of British explorers in Africa, continues as if biographers still avoid criticizing their subjects, but then opens into a kaleidoscope of culture.
Once past this slow beginning, readers encounter Greg Mortenson, a courageous young man who stops at nothing to start a school in a mountain village of Afghanistan. After taking a wrong turn in the Himalayas on his way down K2, perhaps the second highest mountain on earth, he is welcomed by the leaders of a remote village. Wanting to return their hospitality, he asks what they need, and the local elder says “education.” There were no schools there and, equally importantly, women were not allowed to have formal education.
The story chronicles Mortenson’s personal struggle to build a school there. He encounters numerous problems but persists, finally obtaining the $12,000 he needs, only to find the roads to the village blocked and, even later, realizing that the construction supplies can’t be transported unless he first raises money to build a huge bridge. Amazingly, he accomplishes the task – the bridge and the school, including local women.
Later, he is able to raise money for more schools and eventually to start the Central Asia Institute, bringing education to many in this remote mountain region. As he proceeds, it’s clear that no personal inconvenience is too much. He is even captured and then released by Taliban forces at grave personal risk.
In the last portion of the book the reader can witness the struggle with Bin Laden and the Taliban from within the mountain territory. Taliban forces entered the region by force and regularly threaten villagers so this once delightful region has become a human tragedy. At the same time, Osama Bin Laden in seen as a product of his treatment at the hands of American officials. A classic confrontation between Mortenson and American Congressmen and even Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, leaves an indelible memory – Rummie’s shiny, gleaming shoes.
Bruce Cook, Ph.D.