Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Three Cups of Tea

Here comes another installment of my favorite books (as listed on facebook):

I read Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen, a year and a half ago for my Kappa alumnae book group. Reviews were mixed among the members of the group, but I enjoyed it.

It is the story of how Mortensen turned a failed mountain climb into a life-changing project, building schools for (primarily) girls in Pakistan. After failing to reach the summit of K2, Mortensen is lost and quite ill. He stumbles upon a small village where he is kindly taken in by the locals. During his few days there, he notices that the children do not have a school building, but learned out in the open. He promises to come back and build them a school.

He returns to the U.S. to raise the funds, thinking it will be a one-time project. However, this one promise turns into a non-profit organization that produced many schools for children who desperately wanted to learn.

Mortensen puts himself in harm's way on more than one occasion, almost to the point where it becomes exasperating for the reader. The man is intensely focused on his mission, often to the extreme neglect on the other aspects of his life. His work is inspiring, but he's often a frustrating person to follow on a journey, even through the pages of a book.

Overall, I loved the book, even though the reading process was challenging at times.

He also wrote a children's book about the story, Listen to the Wind.

There is also a new book by Mortensen out called Stones into Schools. I haven't read it yet, but I love the subtitle: "Promoting peace through books, not bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan." One of the points Mortensen made several times in the first book was that the dearth of schools in Pakistan was causing parents to send their children to the radical Islamic madrassas. The schools Mortensen helped build were secular, which was controversial at times, but they were usually taught by local teachers, and did not push any Western agenda.

If you haven't read Mortensen's work yet, I highly recommend it. It's not light or easy, but so inspiring. It also helped me to change my perspective regarding much of what is going on in Pakistan and Afghanistan right now.

Has anyone else read Three Cups of Tea or Stones into Schools? I'm curious. What did you think?

Here's a brief discussion with Mortensen about his book. Check out youtube for countless additional interviews.

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