Book Notes: Three Cups of Tea

K2, Pakistan
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.
Three Cups of Tea cover

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
Hushe School, Pakistan
Children of Lalander
The girls of Lalander School in Afghanistan

Lalander School
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
Sitara School, in Pakistan

Greg w/Sitara children
Greg Mortensen with the children of Sitara School

Baharak School

Baharak School, built by the villagers, under the guidance of Central Asia Institute

new uniforms
New school uniforms–for many the first new clothes ever received

children of torghu-balla
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.

Kathryn xoxoox

32 Responses to “Book Notes: Three Cups of Tea”

  1. Thanks for the inspiring review. I must read Three Cups of Tea.

  2. Welcome, Donna. I do hope you do! Thanks for the visit! Kathryn xoxo

  3. I read this recently and I found it very moving.
    What really stuck in my mind is that concept of “the other”, people who have different religions or live in a far away place is blasted away with this book., We share the love of parents for their children, to have an education. The girl who wanted to grow up to be an important lady. There is no “other”, no “those people”. We are so alike in our common humanity. Cultural differences is the spice that make life interesting.
    Actually when I read this book i thought of you!
    I love these images not seen in the book. Those schools are so beautiful.

  4. Hi, Philip! I believe you mentioned this book to me in an email, and that is, in fact, what led me to order it.
    It piqued my curiosity. THANK YOU for telling me about Three Cups of Tea. It is the most gratifying read in a long time. It’s affecting me quite deeply. The writing is so (I want to say) acute, that I almost feel like a part of me is walking among these people. I’ve definitely taken them into my heart, and am benefitting from their wisdom. Case in point: accepting that things take longer than one might think and it’s OK! ๐Ÿ™‚ Warmly, Kathryn xox

  5. Wow! What an Amazing story! And, how Inspiring! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thank you for the book suggestion! I really look forward to reading it!
    The pics are Fantastic! Those children are just Beautiful!
    Love you,

  6. Oh Kathryn, what a wonderful post. Teaching girls is more beneficial to societies – that’s so true… I was surprised to see Mr Mortensen – I thought he is older… that’s even more inspiring…

  7. We’ve heard of this book and now you’ve moved us to action. It’s definitely going on the reading list. Thank you for the review.

    talk to you soon…
    The Shibaguyz

  8. Hi Kathryn,

    Okay, so now I have to go out and buy this book! My friend Sue, who is a tea fanatic, bought it at first because of the title. She raved about it and I made a mental note to get it and read it (and promptly forgot about it until I read your review). Your review is beautifully written, too.

    My plan this morning was to drive over to Green Spring Gardens to photograph whatever was in bloom. I wake up, it’s pouring (good for my garden, so I’m not complaining). So much for photography this morning!….perhaps a good day to head to Borders to buy “Three Cups of Tea?”

  9. Thank you for sharing this. I’ll be looking for this to read myself.

    I’ve ALWAYS been of the mindset that we are all inhabitants of Planet Earth and that we should look at each other through those eyes of comradeship.

  10. I am currently reading Three Cups of Tea and loving it! I enjoyed your review of this wonderful hearwarming story. Thank you for the pictures you posted. The faces of those beautiful children tell so much.


  11. Hi, sweet Antonia, Yes, I will mail you a copy! You are so attuned to teaching and the teaching of children. You will love this. Love, Mom xoxo

  12. Hi, Ewa! I too was surprised to see Greg’s face–but so pleased. He has a very loving kind countenance.
    I hope you will read. You can readily find in Poland, right? Love, Kathryn xox

  13. Welcome, ShibaGuyz! Let me know what you think! Kathryn xoxo

  14. Good morning, Cindy! I’d say a trip to Borders and a nice cup of tea while reading Three Cups would be a delightful start to a rainy day! ๐Ÿ™‚ Kathryn xoxo

  15. Welcome, Kylee, Comradeship that includes stewardship would be a great ticket! Kathryn xoxo

  16. Hi, cousin Susan! I’m so pleased you are already reading this book! Yes, those childrens’ faces go right to the heart of the matter. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  17. I’d not heard of this book but your description of it (and the photos) are inspiring.

    I don’t visit here often . . . (I don’t know why . . . I always enjoy what I read here . . . I should put it on my blogging ‘route’! Anyway, I’m glad I came today!

    Lucy Corrander

  18. Welcome, Lucy! Thanks for the visit. I hope you find and enjoy the book! Kathryn

  19. I enjoyed reading your post. My friend just told me about this book last week and I plan to look for it at the local library tomorrow.

  20. Welcome, Crafty Gardener! I’m so glad you’ve heard of the book and will be checking out a copy! Enjoy!
    Thanks for the visit! Kathryn xoxo

  21. What a fabulous and inspiring post-I am sending this link around for my friends to read!

  22. Welcome, Nicole! Thank you so much.I do hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Kathryn xox

  23. A great review of a wonderful book. As part of a book club, I read this book and our club was so moved as to send a donation to the foundation. The book is proof that one person can make a difference in the world.

  24. Hi, Layanee, So glad to hear your book club was inspired enough to make a contribution! Bravo! Kathryn xox

  25. I loved this book and am using excerpts from it for my devotional in one of my college courses that I teach. (Re: the joy of giving)

  26. Hi, Margaret–What a great idea! Good for you! Kathryn xoxo

  27. I just read the kids version of three cups of tea. I loved it!!! The story was so inspiring although some of the names were hard to pronounce. It made me want to do something in the world when I grow up. Thanks for the great read!!!!

  28. Hi, Sarah, Thanks for letting me know there is a “kids’ version” of Three Cups of Tea. I was not aware. As for doing something in the world, you can start now. Whatever you can dream, you can do. Trust the process and watch the magic unfold. ๐Ÿ™‚ Kathryn xoxo

  29. This book was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read. What Greg did was so selfless and inspirational and affirms my belief that there is so much good in the world. As the parent of a little girl I was fighting back my emotions trying to get through some of the chapters. We learn of illiterate fathers who literally have nothing and are beyond poor by western standards but were willing to give up all they had so that their children would have a chance at an education.


  30. Hi, Philip! Welcome! I know. Wasn’t it astounding to think of the father who set his son adrift on the river so he might have a chance of being educated downstream? I find myself thinking of him and that child and that act, and my own daughter, about to enter grad school. Thanks for your comment. Kathryn xoxo

  31. hi
    loved the book – but just for the facts – the Middle East is NOT Afghanistan or Pakistan. And I work in the middle east as a western teacher in a Muslim public school with Arab/Muslim colleagues. Never ONCE have I heard anybody in this country talk about infidels. this is a figment of someone’s exotic imagination (:

  32. Hi, Julz, Duly noted and corrected. Thank you. Not sure how I missed that. As for the use of the word infidel, that would be directly from the book. Not a word I would use. If we are to believe some of the material in the recent “60 Minutes” report this was not the only liberty taken in the telling of this story, but we may never really know. Sad. Kathryn xoxo

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