"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.