Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Three Cups of Tea
I had the good fortune to be gifted an armload of books by Alex's mom a few weeks ago. I have been slowly working my way through them. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin was a fascinating journey into the life of a man who has dedicated his life to educating poor children in some of the most dangerous areas of the world. The subtitle on this book is "One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time" and they really mean it. Mortenson is a mountaineer, and, reeling from the untimely death of his sister, Christa, set out to climb K2, one of the world's highest peaks (and arguably one of the most dangerous). K2 lies on the border between Pakistan, China and Afghanistan, in a most inhospitable area. Mortenson ultimately failed to climb K2 (by little fault of his own) and reeling from starvation, altitude and dehydration, he stumbled into a little village called Korphe. There are villages like this dotted all over the mountains in this region. Many are not loyal to any country and tend to not receive aid from any country (even though this particular one was within the Pakistan border. The people of Korphe took Mortenson in and took care of him, nursing him back to health. When Mortenson realized the children of Korphe were being educated outdoors on a large rock and had no classrooms, schoolbooks or school to speak of, he began planning how to build a school for this tiny village. This book is the story of his journey throughout the Pakistan/Afghanistan region (a region that is hotly contested and at the center of many US airstrikes now) building schools and community centers for regions of countries long ignored by their respective capitals. Somehow, Mortenson is able to build schools to ultimately educate girls within these villages. This educations includes moderate Islam (not the fundamentalist Islam taught in madrassas funded by extremist groups) and ultimately builds up villages in a highly volatile region. Mortenson is able to describe these regions, describe the traditions and beliefs of Islam and tries to explain where we've gone wrong in our "War on Terror". For example, Islamic law requires the "winner" of a war to care for the widows and orphans left in a defeated village. How well have we done that? Not well at all, for sure. This book was a great read, mostly for the adventures Mortenson finds himself in, as well as describing the region and the traditions in the area. This book opened my eyes to the possiblity of education being the best asset for us over there. Some areas only have extremist madrassas for educating their children. Hopefully, we can change this by building schools teaching more moderate Islam and supporting the education of girls. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in current events. It's a great read.