I read this upon the suggestion of my friend Michelle. I had it on my list for awhile, but her glowing review sent me straight to the library.
This was a book that I just couldn’t put down. It was seemingly written more by Relin than by Mortenson, and I had my nitpicks, but the overall message and story was so inspiring and so moving and hopeful, that they were easily overlooked. (Okay, not entirely overlooked. One of my major nitpicks is the almost deification of Mortenson, and it’s written in theory, by him – but it seems as if it was a posthumous biography. I was almost shocked that he is still [fortunately] alive.)
This is essentially the true story of one man’s struggle and determination to build schools for the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson himself is amazing, but the story of these people and the conditions and the obstacles is the true star, in my mind.
The book also served to confirm and validate my long-held belief that a lot of the world’s problems and poverty could be alleviated or eradicated by focusing on the education and empowerment of women and children. If you give a woman the chance to free herself from poverty, and an education, they can protect themselves from tyranny. They can become self-supporting and in turn, can show her children that there is another way. If you are raised in poverty and have the bleakest of futures, it’s hard to imagine a better world, and it’s easy to turn to hate. If you have a future, and a chance, and access to at the very least, clean water, food and medical care, then maybe we can turn future potential terrorists who had to unite against something to people who can create their own paths and futures.
Give a woman a chance to participate in her government and economy, or be able to read and write and you will give her options. My guess is that the options will be to take care of her children, and most likely have less children that she can’t afford, and stay in marriages where she may be abused. We need to stop treating women like second class citizens, and invest more time, money and effort into those that will be raising the next generation.
The “Three Cups of Tea” refers to the idea that the idea that “he first cup of tea, you’re a stranger; the second cup, a friend; and the third cup, you’re family.” It was a nice reminder that relationships have to be built, and once they are, when they are maintained, there is nothing stronger.
The book was so inspiring and hopeful, that as I was reading it, I kept hoping that we had a different outcome. For example, he is in the Middle East when the attacks on 9/11 happen, and reading about the CAI trying to get tribal leaders together and rally against Osama and for educating women, I actually had a glimmer of hope that it was all going to be okay, and we wouldn’t be bombing innocents. Of course, this didn’t happen. But if the CAI and other organizations succeed in educating women and children, I want to believe that this won’t happen again.
You can read more about the book and the story on their website, and I highly recommend that you do. I as so moved, that I made a contribution to the Central Asia Institute’s charity at www.ikat.org. My guess is that after reading this book, you will want to do so as well.