Three Cups of Tea – Young Reader’s Edition – Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, copyright 2009.
Publisher: Puffin Books
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New
Reason for Reading: August Social Justice Challenge
This was the last of four books that I read for the August Social Justice Challenge. I was a bit leery going into the Young Reader’s Edition of the book, because I was worried I might feel I was missing out on key parts of the story. There were a couple of occasions where it seemed like the writing had been over simplified for the younger audience, but those parts were the exception, not the rule. I had seen the original version of Greg Mortenson’s book at Indigo-Chapters I don’t know how many times and never bothered to pick it up. I wish I had known what an inspiring read I was missing out on. I may yet pick it up and read it too.
In 1993, Mortenson made a failed attempt to climb the world’s second tallest mountain K2 in Pakistan. On his descent, he became lost when he was separated from his friends and wound up wandering into the village of Korphe. This accidental turn of events would forever change Greg’s life and those of many Pakistani and Afghani villagers throughout the region. The people of Korphe, unaccustomed to visitors, took Greg in and made him at home. Greg was overwhelmed by their hospitality and spent an unspecified amount of time recuperating in the village. During his stay, he saw first-hand the hardship these people faced on a daily basis. What struck him the most was the town’s school, or lack thereof.
“When the song ended, they sat down in the dirt and began writing out their multiplication tables. A few, like Jahan, had slates on which they wrote with sticks dipped in mud. The rest scratched in the dirt with sticks. ‘Can you imagine a fourth-grade class in America, alone, without a teacher, sitting there quietly and working on their lessons?’” Page 17, Three Cups of Tea – Young Reader’s Edition
Unlike so many climbers who made promises before him, Greg kept his promise and built a school for Korphe. Then he built a school for Kuardu. Then he built schools all across Pakistan. All in all, Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute built over sixty schools in the country and just one year after the 9/11 attacks, he began building schools in neighbouring Afghanistan. Along the way, the mishaps that befall Greg as extraordinary, from losing his job and girlfriend in the US and having his building materials stolen to being shot at in Afghanistan and kidnapped in Waziristan. This is the stuff legends are made of.
In the back of the book, there was a quite lengthy Q&A section with Amira Mortenson, Greg’s twelve-year-old daughter, in which she answers questions about the work she has done with her father. I just skimmed through the section, but she appears to be quite precocious and has evidently been very involved in the charity work.
I greatly admire what Greg Mortenson is doing in Central Asia, building schools and promoting peace through education. What I liked the most was Greg’s courage to stand up for Muslims immediately after the September 11th attacks. He describes how he received all kinds of hate mail from people in the United States when, in the weeks and months following the attacks, he tried to make people see the other faces of Islam. Having worked in some of the most dangerous areas in the region, Greg knew what kind of dangerous people were lurking in some areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. What he also knew, was that those people were in the minority. He asked Americans to consider the victims of the region and to see that “the difference between becoming a good local citizen and a terrorist could be an education.” It was after reading these and similar words spoken by Mortenson towards the end of this book that have given me the greatest admiration for the man and his fight to educate children, especially girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am anxiously awaiting the paperback release of Greg’s latest book Stones into Schools.
I am happy that this ended up being the last book I read for the August Social Justice Challenge. I had been racking my brain trying to think of something I could do to make some small difference for the cause of Illiteracy in Education. After reading Greg’s story, I knew I had found my answer. Earlier this week I made a donation to the Central Asia Institute. I know where my money is going and I know it will make a difference.