Serving tea is an important social custom in Pakistan, according to Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea. It is a courtesy offered before any conversation or business deal. Before you buy cement or lumber, you share tea. When you visit a village elder, you drink tea. Even with your kidnappers, there is tea. Mortenson, who spent years in the country building schools for village girls, drank a lot of tea.
Building schools for girls in remote regions of a poor Islamic country is not what he intended to do when he first went to Pakistan. He was there to climb a mountain. Coming down after failing to reach the summit, he lost his way and was separated from his team. Cold, hungry, and exhausted, he stumbled into a village. The villagers treated him as an honored guest, saving his life. Trying to think of a way to repay them for their kindness, he promised to build a school.
Mortenson knew nothing about building a school and was not in a position to finance the job. He was a part time emergency room nurse, only working enough to finance his climbing. He had no permanent address, much less a savings from which to draw, but he had a promise to keep.
Three Cups of Tea tells how Mortenson built first one and then many other schools where the Pakistani government has never ventured. To do so, he had to learn not only about construction but also about local customs and politics. It is a dramatic story, including accidents on mountain roads, caring for Afghan refugees, and crossing hostile borders. He experienced a side of Islamic culture not known in the West and sees up close the impact of American foreign policy on the region.
Readers who enjoyed Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder will enjoy this important book that proposes peaceful means to stop the rise in terrorism.
Mortenson, Greg and Relin, David Oliver. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations - One School at a Time. New York: Viking, 2006. ISBN 0670034827
11 compact discs. Tantor Media, 2006. ISBN 1400132517