Unexpectedly, Greg Mortenson found himself lost on the side of a Pakistani mountain, faced with the daunting task of finding his way down and making his way home. In the process, Mortenson realized a dream to educate the children he encountered, ones who had no feasible way to attain education or move beyond their small mountain home.
In 1993, Mortenson was in a remote, impoverished village in the Karakoram Mountains after his failed attempt to summit Pakistan’s infamous K2.
“Three Cups of Tea” follows Mortenson’s journey back to the U.S., his attempts at fundraising for a school to educate the Korphe children and the events that ensued.
Well-written and in a formal journalistic style, David Oliver Relin, a man who became acquainted with Mortenson’s story, attempts to document Mortenson’s incredible experiences.
Mortenson began with a school in the small mountain town of Korphe. He wrote 580 letters to any celebrity or high-income person he could, along with applying for grants. After mailing everything out, Mortenson was only able to procure $100 from Tom Brokaw and rejection letters from all 16 grants.
With this fundraising failure, Mortenson turned to the mountaineering community. Through the help of a friend, he posted his idea in a newsletter. One interested man contacted him, Dr. Jean Hoerni, and wrote him a check for $12,000 — the amount Mortenson estimated the school would cost.
As the narrative follows Mortenson back to Pakistan, Relin tells about his financial and cultural dealings. Following his troubles, Relin recounts the difficulty of communication, the untrustworthy people Mortenson encountered and each friend that he made.
With each explanation of the people Mortenson befriends — the village chief of Korphe, Haji Ali, Mortenson’s climbing guide, Mouzafer Ali, who later had a school built in his village, and the leader of the Shia, Syed Abbas — Relin documents the sudden love and dedication felt toward an infidel.
Finally, three years after his first encounter in the village of Korphe, Mortenson completes the school he promised to build.
Within this time, Hoerni had founded the CAI, the Central Asia Institute, with Mortenson as head. This business allowed Mortenson an outlet for funds and a salary so he could have a family and pursue his dream.
As the book recounts the next decade of Mortenson’s endeavors, it covers each issue that arises while delving into Mortenson’s home life.
At the beginning of Mortenson’s next three schools, he is taken hostage by hostile Taliban. He is interviewed and judged, and after explaining his mission to educate the children, is released and even given money.
The residents Mortenson meets and befriends are a testament to the ability and hope this man possesses. Relin humanizes each event, connecting the reader to the struggle and mission this man was fighting for.
Persevering through each obstacle and becoming fluent in the language and culture of a world completely opposite of America, Mortenson builds 55 schools in a decade throughout Pakistan.
Following his journey and living through his experiences brings his hope and efforts to a level that many connect to. His story is inspirational, and written in a documentary style with a touch of humanity.
Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.