Greg Mortenson was a nurse by profession and a mountain-climber by passion. He attempted to climb K2, but was unsuccessful. After several mishaps, he found himself alone on his descent and almost died. He was taken in by the people of Korphe, a small village in the Pakistani mountains, and nursed to health. Greg promised to repay the people of Korphe by coming back to build them a school. When he returned to the US, he sold all of his possessions and dedicated himself to raising the small amount of money he needed to build the school. Within a couple of years it was done.
The process eventually led Greg to start the Central Asia Institute, which has gone on to build over 55 schools and several women's vocational centers and water projects in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His passion now is all about spreading education, especially for girls, as a way to build up the people of the region and combat terrorism. In the course of this work, he has been kidnapped by mullahs, held and questioned by the CIA, and had fatwas issued against him. But the goodwill of the people he has worked with has always been there to protect him.
One of the things Mortenson laments is that less that 1/3 of the money the US promised to Afghanistan for re-building has been spent there. I just can't imagine the mind that fails to grasp why our efforts in that country have been such a complete failure.
Here's a little excerpt from an article about Mortenson and his work from the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
The title of the book, "Three Cups of Tea," refers to the way business is done in the tribal areas where the Taliban has sought refuge. The first cup of tea is to get acquainted, the second to make friends, and the third is to do business -- over months or years.I don't know about you, but I'm ready to propose a "Department of Tea Drinking" that will be devoted to talking, listening, building up and problem-solving. I know the reaction this would get from the DC crowd. But I continue to hope for the day we'll be ready to try something that promotes life rather than death.
It's a contrast to the fast-paced American style of business through teleconferencing, e-mails and instant messaging.
As America struggles against terrorism, he said, it fails to understand the "Three Cups of Tea" style of negotiating, and the power of tribalism.
He scoffs at efforts to generate democracy overnight.
"We're trying to plug in democracy," Mortenson said. "You can't do that. You can't just tell people to vote. You have to put in education, and land ownership."
"It takes two generations," Mortenson said -- and a whole lot of tea.