Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Review: Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea
In honor of Ramadan and because I wanted to pad my paltry knowledge of the Middle East, I decided to read this book. I usually prefer non-fiction but sometimes reality is ever better. One of my goals in life is to embrace people and I can't do that if I don't know anything about them :)
Three Cups of Tea is about an American mountaineer Greg Mortenson and his arduous quest to educate girls in the impassable mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan. After failing to reach his goal of climbing Karokoram 2 and living a climbing fiend’s life in California, Mortenson set out to follow a personal conviction and promise he made to the people who rescued him and nursed him back to health in rural Pakistan.
With the Taliban forming and fundamental madrassa schools cropping in the hills of Pakistan, Mortenson believed that education was the key weapon against violence. These kids would not want war, if they had better opportunities, Mortenson thought. He studied the local languages of various tribes including Pastun, Balti and Wazir and built strong bonds with the local people. With the help of some generous people and Mortenson's endless series of public talks to spread his message of peace through education (especially for women), he has been able to build 81 schools in a little over 10 years.

To do for us without out is to do against us
While the heavily armored US army struggles to make progress on various Middle East fronts, pours money into the governments, and screams its message of democratic liberation, Mortenson has found a humbler and more effective way of waging peace. Before starting every new project, he visits the people to hear what they want and then together they join hands and build.

If you were young when September 11 happened and do not quite understand the mayhem surrounding words like mujahideen and Taliban, read this book! I don´t usually read about politics because I am bombarded with it every day at work but this was a quick, educational, and at times funny read.

“Here in Pakistan and Afghanistan, we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, the third you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything – even die.”
This book will be useful to everyone who is thinking of taking trips abroad. There is no shortage of stories about Americans’ inexcusable rudeness in host countries. I have met people in Spain who complained that there were two many churches and said it offended them to take part of the group tours that included several cathedral visits. I am surprised when college educated people ask me if there are a lot of Black people in Haiti. And, Barcelona is not, believe it, in Mexico.
This book shows why people do not hate Americans but hate American cultural incompetence.
The message of this book is worth repeating: if you want to change the world, let the world change you.

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