Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Book review: Three cups of tea

My friend SS lent me this book, Three Cups of Tea, and I have to admit that it probably wouldn't have been a book I picked up in the store based on the cover. But after I started reading it, I was hooked. It is a fantastic book, and a true story.

Greg Mortenson is an American mountain climber that fails to climb K2 and then spends some time recuperating from his failure in a small village in northern Pakistan, high up in the mountains. After a month he asked if he could see their school, and the elder chief brings him to an open field where the children are sitting outside in the cold wind without any books or desks and just with a teacher in front of them. Greg decides to build them a school as a thank-you gift for their hospitality, so he goes back to the US, tries to raise money for the school and finally finds a donor.

He comes back to Pakistan, builds the school, and realizes that there are many more villages that need schools. So he continues to build schools together with the local people, raise money, and the focus is especially to educate girls in this Muslim society of many different tribes and cultures. He co-founds the Central Asia Institute, which is now involved in many efforts to help the people in this part of the world.

The language is so vivid, the characters so well-explained with so much humanity, and you get a very good understanding of this part of the world nested in between India, Afghanistan, and China. At the same time this is happening you have the raise of the Islamic fundamentalists in northern Pakistan, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and 9-11 happens. Throughout the whole book there is a streak of hope and persistent, despite setbacks and difficult circumstances. In the end of the book he describes Afghanistan after the war between the Taliban regime and the US, and how so much money dedicated to rebuilding the country never showed up. It is sad and it also makes me angry. First the US bombs and destroys, then the promised money to rebuild schools and hospitals never show up. Kids are having lessons in bombed out tanks because their school has no roof, they have no books, and no pencils.

Now 60 schools have been built and over 25,000 students have been educated, all due to one man's inspiration and dedication. It is an amazing, lovely, and important story.

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