Sunday, February 21, 2010
I just read the best book I've read in several years: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
I saw this book about two years ago in a book store and thought it looked intriguing. I wrote it down in my phone so I would remember to look for it at the library. But I never followed through. And I missed out on this fantastic book for two years!
It's the story of how one man sacrificed everything to bring education to girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. An extreme mountain climber, Greg Mortensen got lost on his descent from a failed climb of K2 in Pakistan and ended up in a remote village. The village chief took him in and nursed him back to health. There Greg discovered that there were no schools anywhere in this mountainous area, and he decided to find a way to build a school there. The book goes on to tell his amazing adventures in raising money, building a bridge and then a school, and traveling to other remote and poverty-stricken areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan to bring basic education to the area, especially its girls.
It is such an inspiring tale. First of all, it points out what one person can do with some determination and hard work. He managed to build over 40 schools by the time of publication! But more importantly to me, it highlighted an area of the world I knew only a little about and demonstrated how these poor, simple Muslim people would sacrifice everything they had--the few rupies they had collected over the years, their own labor and health, land, materials, etc.--to give their children, their daughters, a chance at a better life. They're such a misunderstood people. We think of Muslims from that area as extremists and terrorists. But all of the people in the book, including some of the highest Muslim leaders in the country, hoped only for a better life for their children, peace, education, understanding, and condemned the hateful, violent behavior of a few of their countrymen.
I was so inspired by the end of this book that I was, first of all, in tears. And secondly, motivated to do something. The book said that one penny could buy a child a pencil, a dollar a month could pay for a child's education, and a dollar a day was enough to pay a teacher's salary. I spend enough to pay for all three of those things in one meal going out to eat on the weekend. It's amazing to think that that small amount of money could mean a child in Pakistan grows up loving life, believing in him or herself, and understanding the world beyond her village instead of being recruited by terrorist schools.
Anyway, read this book. It is wonderful, touching, and exciting. And it will change how you feel about the people in that part of the world who get such a bad name by a few extremists in their midst.