Sunday, April 06, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

I've finally finished the book Three Cups of Tea, written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The book's subtitle is, "One man’s mission to promote school at a time." I think it sums up the book well.

The first part of the book is an adventure tale, the story of mountain climber Greg Mortenson. He attempts and fails to climb one of the world's toughest mountains (located in Pakistan). A local village nurses him to health and, as a result of his time there, Greg devotes his life to building schools for the impoverished children of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The schools focus on non-extremist education and providing resources for girls. This adventure story slips by quickly for me; I can hardly put the book down. Here is a quote (and source of the book's name) from Haji Ali, Korphe village Chief (the village where Greg was taken in), "Here, we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything - even die."

Then the story collides with 9-11, and the reading goes much slower for me. It's a sad, sad tale for me to read how the events of 9-11 harm not only us, but also the innocents in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is eye-opening to read reports of the experience from an "insiders" perspective, meaning the Muslim people of the remotest villages.

The book carries a political message, one with which I agree. The message is this: Providing education to the children is a more powerful and longer-lasting way to combat terrorism and foster peace than bombs will ever be.

I will express some discomfort with the amount of time Greg leaves his family and the risks he takes along the way. But that is not for me to judge; it is between Greg and his wife.

Regardless of your beliefs and politics related to this matter, anyone who enjoys tea will appreciate how frequently tea appears in the book. I lost track of my count of the number of different styles of tea referenced. It is a fascinating study!

I highly encourage you to read the book and form your own opinions of Greg's mission.


Anonymous said...

Steph, I wish you could have joined the fascinating discussion the WWF(a)C book group had of this book a few months ago. We were all very engaged by the book, but the range of deeply held responses to various aspects of the narrative/action was astonishing and most thought provoking. I've since given this volume to several friends, for all of whom it has evoked very strong responses, of all kinds. MKP

Anonymous said...

Wonderful review, Steph. This book is near the top of that proverbial stack of books I mean to read. As soon as I finish "The Secret", it will be on to "Three Cups of Tea".


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, Steph! Two other friends have also recommended that book to me, so I will put it on my list of things to read!

Cindy said...

Thanks for recommending this book to me Steph. As I said in my email to you, it evoked many strong feelings in me, in part because I lived in Iran for a year when I was 8 years old. We were CONSTANTLY being served tea but I never knew why.

I find it interesting that you describe the book as having a political statement - I didn't see it that way @ all, but rather as fact. If you raise someone's standard of living and respect their beliefs, you just WILL impact their lives more than if you shoot @ them (well, okay not if you kill them). What impressed me the most about Greg Mortenson was that he took the time to learn the culture & ASK what they needed.

IMHO, the writing itself left a little to be desired, but the story is so riveting that it's well worth reading!

Oh, btw - if you check out his website, you'll see the work that the group has been doing since 2003 when the book ended. Unfortunately a major earthquake hit the region in 2005 I believe & he's been helping to try to rebuild some of the schools & services lost.

Linda said...

I enjoyed your review of this book. It is one I have been considering reading.

Susan said...

My book group read this one last month and I truly enjoyed it. Greg Mortenson has certainly done incredible things. Amazing the difference one person can make.

VeeTea said...

Sounds fascinating. I'll have to read it soon! Thanks so much for the review!