When the porcelain bowls of scalding butter tea steamed in their hands, Haji Ali spoke. 'If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways,' Haji Ali said, blowing on his bowl. 'The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die,' he said, laying his hand warmly on Mortenson's own. 'Doctor Greg, you must make time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time.'This is a remarkable book about a remarkable man, Greg Mortenson, who has devoted his life to creating peace in the Middle East by building schools in impoverished areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This was no small feat. Not only is it physically demanding to even reach some of these areas, the political and religious negotiations are delicate and risky. At one point, Mortenson is kidnapped and held for eight days while the group decides if they will trust him enough to let him continue his work.
'That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I've ever learned in my life,' Mortenson says. 'We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. We're the country of thirty-minute power lunches and two-minute football drills. Our leaders thought their "shock and awe" campaign could end the war in Iraq before it even started. Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them.' -From Three Cups of Tea, page 150.
I appreciate this column by Nicholas Kristof, pointing out the differences in approaches in the Middle East between Mortenson and the Bush administration:
It Takes a School, Not Missiles
Mr. Bush has focused on military force and provided more than $10 billion — an extraordinary sum in the foreign-aid world — to the highly unpopular government of President Pervez Musharraf. This approach has failed: the backlash has radicalized Pakistan’s tribal areas so that they now nurture terrorists in ways that they never did before 9/11.If you haven't read this book yet, I encourage you to do so. The writing is not stellar, but the story is so encouraging and hopeful - something we can use more of these days.
Mr. Mortenson, a frumpy, genial man from Montana, takes a diametrically opposite approach, and he has spent less than one-ten-thousandth as much as the Bush administration. He builds schools in isolated parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, working closely with Muslim clerics and even praying with them at times.
The only thing that Mr. Mortenson blows up are boulders that fall onto remote roads and block access to his schools. ~Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, 07-13-08 (Read entire column)