Monday, December 1, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

I have to write about "Three Cups of Tea". It has been months since I read it in the wilds of Indonesia and If my thoughts haven't crystallised yet they never will.

"Three Cups of Tea" is the story of American mountaineer turned humanitarian Greg Mortenson. At 34 Mortenson has given his life to mountaineering, it has cornered his goals, shaped his identity and driven his ego. The narrative starts with Mortenson lost among the moraines of the Baltoro glacier during his retreat from an unsuccesful attempt at K2. He is lost both literally and metaphorically. Food is running short, but more important is Mortensons state of mind, he is befuddled and confused. As directionless in the vast awesome space of his head as he is amongst the vast current of ice.

He finds himself briefly, only to take another wrong turn and arrive at the remote village of Korphe. The kindness of the mountain people inspires and enlightens him. He vows to return and build them a school. He does. He also builds them a bridge, and he builds other schools around the area, eventually forming the Central Asia Institute now active in some of the most remote areas of both Pakistan and Afgahnistan as this map shows. One of the rays of hope in adesperate situation.

The narrative follows Mortenson as he has the balls to follow through his promise and endures the initial hard times. He types out 100's of applications and requests for funding, before discovering the efficiencies of email, and only one is successful. He keeps struggling and eventually attracts the attention of a donor. He returns to Pakistan in triumph, only to learn that there will always be problems. He works through these problems and gets things done. He gets the school made in Korphe, and he wins the respect and admiration of these people and their neighbours.

It seems his luck changes, he falls in love and is married, money becomes less of an issue and tribal leaders seek him out to ask for his help. The book concludes with him staring out over Afghanistan realising the enormity of his mission. A mission which judging by the map above he continues to move towards achieving. The book is well written, although its American-ness grates sometimes, but the truthfulness and honesty of Mortenson's story shines through. The tears in my eye were not from gladness at all the children been given the opportunity to learn, although this is an honourable endeavour. They were from watching the story of a lost soul unfold. Watching a man have the courage to find his purpose. A simple message really: don't sit around doubting what you can achieve, just get out there and do something.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Jamie,
Thanks for sharing this, it reads as it is an amazing story. I will most certainly put it my Christmas wish list. In many ways I can relate to the premise, though rather than in a world of mountaineering, I am instead in the corporate cage which I am increasingly growing disillusioned with, yet stay for probably very superflous reasons. My time grows short.
Great review, and I will locate this book promptly.

Jamie said...

Hey Robb,

It is a great story. Definitely worth the read. I probably didn't do it justice in my tired state.

I have avoided the corporate cage so far, may not be long though unfortuantely.

Take care man