All photos courtesy Central Asia Institute
I must admit it is a huge stretch of my imagination to get inside the mind of a person who hears of the second highest mountain in the world and wants to scale it. While the beauty of this mountain is undeniable, I would not ever be feeling the pull to put on the proper gear and head out. You know? But mountain climber Greg Mortensen, bound to a far different call than I, did precisely that. He was motivated in part by grief, the grief of having lost his little sister. The thought of reaching the peak of K2, in remote Pakistan, and leaving a small personal treasure she had bestowed on him prior to her death seemed like a lofty tribute to her life. And so he went. That phase of his journey, on the surface, did not End Well. Mortensen, exhausted and in a thin-air stupor, not only fails to reach his goal to reach summit, he barely survives his retreat. And then Things Get (even) Worse, as he gets separated from a local guide who is trying to get him to safety, and he loses his way completely. Two roads diverged on a glacier in Pakistan, and Mortensen’s life was irrevocably changed. Destiny rules as he is taken in by a tiny village into which he blindly stumbles, and where he slowly makes his way back to his recovery, in a simple mud hut, under the loving and watchful care of a wizened old man, the village chief of Korphe village, and his family. A bond is formed and out of Greg’s deep compassion and gratitude he makes a promise. As winter descends upon Korphe village and the inhabitants dig in for a virtual hibernation, Mortensen returns to Berkeley to work towards his new goal. While you and I were dreaming of a spring and summer filled with red tomatoes and green squashes and a multitude of flowers, Greg Mortensen was dreaming of a school. In Pakistan. In mountains that were deliriously high. For girls.
The incredibly unlikely and dramatic journey that unfolds is extremely well documented in Three Cups of Tea, so beautifully written by Mortensen and David Oliver Relin. This book is a treasure.
To reveal many details of Greg’s life as it transpires would be a travesty, so rich is this story so deftly told in Three Cups of Tea. The subtitle, One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time, however, gives license to sharing these most incredible photos, all shared courtesy of the Central Asia Institute.
Hushe School, Pakistan
The girls of Lalander School in Afghanistan
And their school, Lalander School, in Afghanistan
Mortensen understands what Oprah Winfrey understands, that it takes educating the girls in any culture to create lasting change. Says Mortensen, “Once you educate the boys, they tend to leave the villages and go search for work in the cities. But girls stay home, become leaders in the community, and pass on what they’ve learned [to their children].”
Obviously many tests presented themselves to Mortensen in his aspirations. Can you imagine the locals’ perceptions (and concerns) of an “infidel” wanting to make changes in Central Asia? Yet, time and time again the purity of his heart and intentions, and his abiding respect for the culture are seen and lauded by the country he felt in his heart was his second home. They love him. I feel deeply moved to say that Mortensen is a light beckoning to the day when at last we all recognize that all human beings inhabit this same dear planet Earth, and it will be up to all of us to honor yet transcend our various cultural identities in order to protect the Earth and its inhabitants sufficiently to survive. As long as the old vanguard is rallying the cry of unpatriotism for caring about the broader spectrum of humanity our shelf life decreases. It is not either/or. It is both/and, my darlings. Mortensen, the son of missionaries, grew up in Africa, where his father was moved to build a hospital. The seed was planted for his journey before he arrived. Some of us will be called to “distant lands” to make a difference. This was his. Can you imagine the patience and love and skill required in this day and age to do this successfully? This is a must read book for all who hearken to this calling or, for that matter, any inspired calling.
Need more inspiration? Check these out.
Sitara School, in Pakistan
Greg Mortensen with the children of Sitara School
Baharak School, built by the villagers, under the guidance of Central Asia Institute
New school uniforms–for many the first new clothes ever received
The precious children of Torghu Balla, Pakistan
What impulse is moving through you, is calling you, towards making a difference? Who needs the blessing of having you in their lives? May these little children’s faces lead you there.
I so hope you will be moved to read Three Cups of Tea, which now holds a very special place of honor on my bookshelves.
Love and gardening blessings, whatever lofty dream you dream of planting…
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Posted on August 27th, 2008 by Kathryn
Filed under: Book Notes