Fighting Terrorism With EducationThe first time I read the book Three Cups of Tea One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time, a fellow climber handed it to me. He was raving about this guy, Greg Mortenson, and how amazing he was. I assumed that he was some sort of a renowned climber and had accomplished something extraordinary. When I made the first crease in the paperback book, I was hooked instantly upon reading of his failed attempt to summit the world’s second tallest peak, K2. Little did I know the half of it.
Dazed and confused from lack of sleep and food, Mortenson hiked down the Baltoro, a sixty-two-kilometer-long glacier at the base of K2. He stumbled into the small tribal village of Korphe where the nurmadhar, or chief Haji Ali took him into his home, gave him butter tea, and cared for him until his strength returned. Upon waking, Mortenson noticed how little these people lived with, how everything in their home had a purpose and a use. “We breathed an air of utter satisfaction, of eternal peace. All this gives rise to a question. Isn’t it better to live in ignorance of everything-asphalt and macadam, vehicles, telephones, television-to live in bliss without knowing it?” Mortenson, as a house guest, took the their ways quite well considering the circumstances, but when he asked to see their school, he was distraught at the conditions these children were enduring for their education. “I will build a school, I promise” were the words Greg left this village with.As he traveled home, the weight of his promise seemed all too heavy. Dedicating much of his free time, money, and energy into keeping his word, Mortenson followed through and forever changed the course of his life. Thus, the epic tale of his mission unfolds in this promising non-fiction story. Mortenson’s life slowly develops into a lengthy journey of helping children in far away lands such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. As an American, my thoughts of these places were certainly jaded by news reports, but this book has diminished many of my personal assumptions.David Oliver Relin, the co-author, does a good job of accompanying the facts with engaging stories of triumph and error. The book is filled with history and Relin bounces back and forth between Mortenson’s chaotic life in Pakistan and America. Personally, I enjoyed this aspect of his writing. It kept curious thoughts of what was to come lingering in my head. I’ve seen Mortenson speak and this scrambled style of writing is suiting to the way this amazing humanitarian articulates in person. It’s apparent that Mortenson operates on his own orbital plane addressing the thoughts that come to his mind in such an order that some may find unorganized. I felt as though Relin portrayed Mortenson’s character incredibly accurate.After reading this book, I gained a much better knowledge of the events on 9/11 and the Middle East. With Mortenson’s personal experience in Pakistan and Afghanistan, spending much of his time with village mullahs, religious leaders, and even members of the Taliban, he had created a relationship with this country that few individuals can relate to. He understands their culture: the way the go about business, war, and life. Relin described the scene of reporting on the rooftop of the Marriot that ensued after the events of 9/11 as a “circus.” “It’s pitiful,” said Canadian journalist, Kathy Gannon. “Green reporters who know nothing about the region stand up on the roof in flak jackets and act like their backdrop of the Margala Hills is some kind of war zone instead of a place to take the kids on weekends. Most of them don’t want to get anywhere near the border and are running stories without checking them out.” Given his experience and knowledge of exactly what these reporters were covering, I would have appreciated Mortenson’s views of the root cause of terrorism to have been more widely reported on in America. Instead, they brushed him off and didn’t give him the time of day to convey his opinion in regards to the confrontation. Thus, I am thankful for the dialog in regards to the war from a different perspective coming from this book.
I was thoroughly entertained throughout Three Cups of Tea. Having known little to nothing about Greg Mortenson when I picked this book up, I closed it with a depth of knowledge larger than one man’s work to build schools. Covering 9/11 and the terror-stricken nations of Pakistan and Afghanistan, I am much more attune to the cause and ongoing conflict in the world today. Greg Mortenson is a teacher in many ways and this brilliant characteristic shines throughout his story.With the theme of the book being a biographical tale of Mortenson and his effort to build schools for under educated girls and boys, the meaning runs deeper into political and religious issues. Syed Abbas, a religious leader that aided Greg along the way, elegantly asks “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 out way out of the darkness we find ourselves in.”