Friday, April 07, 2006

Three Cups of Tea

I have just about finished the new book Three Cups of Tea, by David Oscar Relin and Greg Mortenson, director of the Central Asia Institute, and I can safely say: Buy this book. Starting with nothing but a desire to help the Balti people in northern Pakistan who had helped him, Mortenson has built more than 50 schools in Central Asia and has done far more to win the "war on terrorism" than Washington has done by spending billions of dollars and sacrificing many thousands of lives. I feared either a dry or sensationalistic account in Three Cups of Tea, but, knowing Mortenson a bit, I shouldn't have worried. In much the same gentle but persistent way that Mortenson earned the trust of his clients in Asia, he formed a two-year collaboration with his co-author that has produced an engaging tale. As a storyteller, Relin has an odd method of mixing past-tense narration with present-tense quotes from his interviews, but Three Cups of Tea is nonetheless a page-turner. Although I already knew much of the story, the book renewed my amazement at Mortenson's dedication (sleeping for a year in a car in the Bay Area despite a good job, in order to save money to build his first school) and at the succession of serendipitous meetings with just the people in both America and Pakistan that could most help him advance his mission. Best of all was Relin and Mortenson's revealing and sympathetic look at the various communities where Mortenson works. I wish certain people in Washington would read this book and take some of its lessons to heart.

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