I finished reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin almost two weeks ago on the plane ride when I returned to Seattle after Thanksgiving break. On Sunday night, almost a week ago, I attended a book club discussion about the book. I was glad to have the chance to discuss the book with other people. A lot of our discussion was centered around access to education and why Mortenson chose to build schools in Pakistan instead of in the United States. One point that divided the room was the issue of access to education in America. Half of the room said that if you "wanted to get an education, you could in the United States. Whereas in Pakistan, that possibility is not even there." The other half strongly disagreed. We also discussed what made it possible for Mortenson to accomplish such a tremendous task. Personally, I wanted to know more about what people thought about his lack of balance between personal life/care and his call to service.
The highlight of the evening was the wonderful meal my friend C had prepared. She cooked food from Pakistan which included dal, rice, naan, roasted potatoes, and lamb. I had a big bowl of dal with naan, followed by some roasted potates. Since I was among the last to leave, I also got treated to one of her homemade sugar plums.
On the car ride home, Victoria, JT, Dude, and I had another book club discussion. I think that we were just not finished talking about the book. We went back to the question of access to education. Dude put it best when he said that just because something is theortically possible does not make something equal. Unfortunately, my fuzzy memory is preventing me from recalling other topics of conversation, but I remember thinking that I was glad I carpooled so that I got to created some of my unknown "bonus footage." << That last sentence indicates that I have been watching too much television.
Another thing I appreciated about the book which I did not get to discuss with folks at either discussion was how the people Mortenson met embodied the type of Muslim faith that many of us only know in theory. The part of the faith which is about peace, equality, and access to education for men and women. I was especially moved with a speech that was given at a school opening shortly after the September 11th terror attacks in the United States:
I request American to look into our hearts," Abbas continued, his voice straining with emotion," and see that the majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people. Our land is stricken with poverty because we are without education. But today, another candle of knowledge has been lit. In the name of Allah the Almighty, may it light our way out of the darkness we find ourselves in.
The book ends just as Mortenson is going to expand his school building efforts to Afghanistan. From my own experience, I know that the book has gotten a lot more press and I wonder how he is coping now and how the project has expanded.
Even though I enjoyed the book, I can see how others would not find it appealing. At some points, Mortenson does come across as a self-declared martyer who thrives on self-sacrifice. That being said, I would recommend this book to a friend.
If you have reviewed the book, please leave a link in the comments and I will add to my post:
Other reviews of the book: