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Three Cups of Tea

  • By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

The New York Time’s bestseller Three Cups of Tea is the follow up to Mortenson’s earlier book Stones into School. For those of you not acquainted with Mortenson’s work as an educational philanthropist/rock climber/do-gooder/school builder, here is a quick catch-up/summary of the story before my overall thoughts.

1. After a failed attempt to climb K2, one of the toughest/tallest mountains in Pakistan, climber Greg Mortenson, lost, hungry and half frozen, stumbles into the tiny village of Korphe in the Kashmir autonomous region encompassing parts of India, Pakistan, and China.

2. Moved by his hosts’ kindness and generosity, and seeing the abject lack of basic schooling in the area, Greg promises to return within one year to build a school house for the children of Korphe.

3. After many trials and challenges, Greg succeeds in returning to Pakistan with the money, and begins his long journey into educational diplomacy, spreading education and hope to thousands of children in Pakistan. He accomplishes what the childrens’ own government cannot – establish a safe, secular, funded educational system in remote villages and towns for boys and girls.

Hopefully I didn’t give too much away. I’d love to see this book turned into a movie. I can only imagine how beautiful the scenery is – the pictures inserted into the middle of the book hardly do the rugged terrain justice. Geography and environment are not just an interesting side-note in this story, but rather interwoven, for to understand the people who live in Kashmir’s rugged valleys, you must understand the land itself. The struggle between survival and starvation, the influence of the Taliban, rogue clerics, floods, snows, corrupt businessmen, even a ruling body from Iran – all play a role in the struggle to establish education as a right, not a privilege for those few lucky enough to afford it.

As an educator myself, I take both inspiration and hope from Mr. Mortenson’s work. It is good to remind ourselves, and our students, that we in the United States and the developed world, are so lucky to be able to have an educational system that, despite it’s flaws, still succeeds in providing an education for every child. Although Greg’s work to establish k-5 schools may seem like its “not enough” to some educational purists, We must remember that it is the small steps that prepare us to run the mile. What use is building a college if no one can read? Create the building blocks, then connect them and see how high you can go. That is Mr. Mortenson and his Central Asian NGO’s mission, and I for one, have been won over by this wonderful documentary.

10 out of 10

Favorite Parts: Seeing the juxtaposition between his life at home in Montana and his “other home” in Pakistan. Shows a wonderful side note about how to keep all of your life in perspective.

– Double Alias