Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Finally Finished Three Cups of Tea

“The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family...”

I checked out Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time 3 weeks ago. It is a New York Times bestseller that is about Greg Mortenson and how his life changed from mountain-climber to humanitarian, working to build schools in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the region. It says it is written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, but when reading, it seems that Mortenson just supplied Relin with information and didn’t have much to do with the actual writing.

I learned about this book in Elisa’s school class and immediately wanted to read it. I put a hold on it at the library, but it took a while before my turn for it came. Since the book is listed on Amazon as having 368 pages, I decided I’d get the book on CD. I don’t get to sit down and read a lot at one time, but I can often listen to CD’s while I cook and clean. The CD version of the book has 11 CD’s. From what little I had learned about Mortenson in Elisa's class though, I really wanted to get through it. I was excited to start listening. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was short-lived. Relin’s writing style really distracts from the story. In my opinion, the writing is agonizingly full of tedious details with sentences overly packed with adjectives. If it were fiction, I would have stopped listening, but I really was intrigued by what Mortenson has accomplished. I realize he was trying to paint a picture for those of us who haven’t been to that part of the world and who don’t know about the customs and culture, but it didn’t need to be 368 pages long!

Despite the problems I had with the writing, I learned so much about Mortenson and his amazing tenacity and selflessness. I don’t want to say too much for those who might read the book, but I will give a few details. Although he was born in Minnesota, he grew up in Tanzania where his father co-founded a medical center and his mother founded an international school. It seems starting big things was in his blood. While on a climb on K2, he was injured and recovered in a small village where he saw school children writing with sticks in the sand because they had no chalkboards or notebooks. He promised the children before he left that he would return and build a school for them. He went home to America and instead of forgetting the people in the village and his promise, he worked to raise money for the school. With many setbacks with money, time and mother nature, he was finally able to build the first school as he promised. But he saw the need for so many other schools, so he continued his work. It is hard to believe how Mortenson worked so hard and put himself in danger despite so many things working against him. In order to save as much money as possible for the actual school building, he uses only enough for what he needs and sleeps in small local inns instead of the Marriot like others who come visit him. I was amazed that he went on working, not knowing how he would feed himself or have enough money to get back home sometimes.

Mortenson is such an example of selfless service. Although he is not perfect, and I find it unfortunate that he spends so much time away from his family, I acknowledge what an exceptional man he is. Even though it was difficult for me to get through the book, the story is the kind that inspires you and keeps you thinking long after you’re done reading it. I have been thinking of ways that I can personally make a difference to someone. I don’t think that I’ll be a founder of an organization, but there are so many ways to touch someone’s life and to make it easier or brighter. I remember other attempts I have made to help people in Ecuador, where my husband is from, after returning. I ran into red-tape with laws, obviously lack of financial resources to do much, and greed from those who were claiming to help. I didn’t get much past the planning stages with any of my ideas. Why? Because I was not persistent and determined the way Mortenson is. He has inspired me to do more and think differently. Although I am in a minority since I don’t have high praises for the writing style, Greg Mortenson and his organization deserve much applause and dontations. Also check out Pennies for Peace where you can register for a kit to collect pennies with your children or school to help the organization build schools.


  1. I still have a few pages before I finish, but agree with your assessment of the writing style. I'm impressed beyond measure by what Mortenson has accomplished, but there had to have been a more interesting way to share it. I was curious too about Tara's viewpoint... maybe she could write a book about how horrible it's been to have her husband in Afghanistan and Pakistan so often? I'm glad I'm reading it though... it makes me want to do more for the world around me.

  2. Congrats on finishing. I've read books like that...can't stand the writing style but really want to read it. It sure does take some perseverance to follow through.


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