Book Review 3 Cups of Tea
July 14, 2009 2 Comments
Book Review: Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time
New York, Toronto, London, et al: Penguin Books, 2006
349 pages, including index, ISBN 978-0-14-303825-2, CAN. $16.50
American Greg Mortenson, a trained nurse and mountaineer, failed to climb the summit of K2, the second highest mountain in the world. His serendipitous descent landed him in a remote Pakistan village named Korphe. The villagers, Shiite Muslims, took him under their wing and nursed him back to health.
Village chief, Haji Ali, offers Greg the following words of wisdom: “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, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die,” he said laying his hand warmly on Mortenson’s own.” (p. 150)
In return for the hospitality and kindness offered him by these village people, Mortenson makes a promise to build them a school. Other Westerners had made them promises before, which had never come to fruition. Greg’s promise was different. Mortenson’s promise was like a fertile seed sown or a pebble causing significant ripples in quiet waters. The more committed Mortenson is to building the school in Korphe, the more his compassion, determination and vision grows. Working day and night, Mortenson makes all kinds of sacrifices—as do his wife and children—to build over fifty secular based schools in the remote mountain villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This was Mortenson’s answer to the fight against Islamic terrorism. Greg has a special concern for the girls of these villages, providing them equal access to education. Many Muslims from various traditions agree with Mortenson and out of one person’s love of the Muslim neighbour grows the Central Asia Institute.
For those readers in the Western world who are subject to the media bias of the stereotype that all Muslims are violent and anti-Western; Three Cups of Tea is an excellent antidote. Mortenson and Relin tell a beautiful story of these remote village Muslims and their love of the non-Muslim, Western stranger, who becomes an honored guest, and, after the third cup of tea, a respected family member. Ultimately, this book is about how one person of good will can make a huge difference in the advancement of deeper understanding, friendship and peace between Muslims and non-Muslims. Three cups of tea served by a Muslim to a non-Muslim has made a world of difference.