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“Three Cup of Tea” by Greg Mortenson

“Three cup of tea” is a well known book written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. This book became the best selling real history of the last decade, which for several years was on top of the most authoritative tops sales.

The book describes the events between 1993 and 2003, and places of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is based on real events and real facts, on the story of Greg Mortenson, who made one of the greatest humanitarian missions of our time. The major topic of the book is Greg Mortenson’s efforts to help the people of Northern Pakistan to built schools there, that is important social and political task. Despite the importance of his mission, Mortenson faced many challenges and obstacles that include political tensions, cultural differences, and lack of money.

According to the story, Greg Mortenson was a mountain climber, who in 1993 decided to climb a very dangerous mountain K2 in Pakistan, which is the world’s second highest mountain and considered very dangerous. That decision Greg made in the honor and memory of his sister who died not so far, and he planed to lay her beautiful amber necklace on top of K2.

That was extremely difficult journey, Mortenson was tired and exhausted. After more than 70 days in the mountains, Greg and three other climbers had to stop their climbing to help to rescue another climber, and so failed to reach the summit. Being weak and tired, Greg was taken by local people from small village in the poor Karakoram Himalaya region. Those people took care of him, helped him to recover both physically and morally. It was their strength of spirit that helped Greg to recover. Their real human emotions and relationships so deeply surprised and touched Greg, that he sympathized those people.

It is important to mention that the title of the book comes from a phrase of Haji Ali, who told Mortenson the meaning of sharing tea for the Balti people : “The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die.” (Mortenson 2007)

That phrase had an important meaning for understanding the Balti people. It means that they have special rituals to know people, to communicate and built relations. This idea was laid in the basis of the book by Mortenson.

Very important moment was when while being in the village Mortenson saw children writing in the dirt with sticks, who didn’t have opportunity to go to school and to study. It was then that Greg decided to do everything possible but to return there and help those children, to build a school for them. “In that moment, Greg Mortenson saw what the rest of his life would be like. Their would be new languages and new customs to learn. He would spend months apart from his family. The would be dangers he couldn’t yeat imagine”. (Mortenson 2007)

Mortenson at first faced with many difficulties to get capital for his project, but then he was presented by Jean Ernie, a wealthy scientist and also a climber, who gave Greg necessary money to build school. Mortenson founded a Central Asia Institute (CAI) that worked to build and equipped many schools in rural Pakistan. It was a difficult task, building in a remote and dangerous, troubled region. Obstacles on his way were local rivalries, deep misunderstandings, jealousy, corruption. But Mortenson had a strong clear goal, he had to do everything to implement his plan. First of all because Mortenson believes that non-extremist education is so important for children from that troubled region to combat violence, intolerance and terrorism. Education is especially important for girls, who originally were not given opportunity to get it in the conservative Muslim culture in rural areas and villages of Pakistan. Through the efforts of Mortenson, the CAI has built 55 schools that taught more than 60000 children, and the work there continues.

Speaking about the state of the world after September 11, 2001, that is about the world in which the problem of terrorism is so obvious and acute, Mortenson argues that terrorism and extremism in the region can be overcome through joint peace efforts. “If we try to resolve terrorism with military might and nothing else, then we will be no safer than we were before 9/11. If we truly want a legacy of peace for our children, we need to understand that this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not with bombs.” (Mortenson 2007)

It is also important to quote Syed Abbas, who said: “I request America to look into our hearts and see that the great majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people. Our land is stricken with poverty because we are without education. But today, another candle of knowledge has been lit. In the name of Allah the Almighty, may it light our way out of the darkness we find ourselves in.” He meant that many people in Pakistan or Afghanistan are not extremists, but ordinary poor people, for which Mortenson’s attempts to help are so important.

According to Mortenson, the possible ways are to fight poverty, to improve access to education in the region, especially for girls. He stresses that in Pakistan, for example, usually only boys got education, but they mostly further are engaged in physical labor, very often leave their villages for work. On the other hand, educated girls usually stay at home in their villages, so they pass on their knowledge to the next generation, help to raise the cultural level in their towns and villages. Thus, Mortenson argues that educating girls are even more important for the development of society.

“Three Cups of Tea” is not only an inspiring story of success and finding meaning of life, but also a vibrant look of Western man at the people, life and culture of the East. The book won 8 literary awards, was published in 48 countries and in all of them became a bestseller.


Works cited:

Mortenson G. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . One School at a Time. Penguin Books, 2007