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February 25, 2009 > Book Review: Three Cups of Tea

Book Review: Three Cups of Tea

By Robert A. Garfinkle

One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time
Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Viking, 2006; 368 pages
Hardback, $25.95
Penguin Books, 2007; 349 pages
Paperback, $15

Editor's Note: Author is making appearances in Fremont and Union City on March 3. See 'It's a Date' on the front page of Section 2 for more information.

This book is the amazing story of what happened to mountaineer Greg Mortenson. After he failed to reach the summit of the second-highest mountain in the world, K2 in the Karakoram area of Pakistan, Greg was lost and stumbled into the small village of Korphe, Pakistan, in 1993.

Villagers nursed him back to health. When they showed him around the village, Greg was shocked to see a group of girls scratching out their studies in the dirt, using sticks as writing instruments, and no teacher in sight. He promised the village that he would build a school for the village's girls after he returned home to raise the money.

Greg went home to Berkeley and as a self-taught fundraiser for this project, failed to raise any significant money. However, he acquired enough to build the Korphe School and returned to Pakistan. With dogged determination, perseverance, luck, and guts Greg built the five-room school and hired teachers to run it.

This success led Greg to more school projects (over 78 as of the end of 2008) in the mountainous rural areas of Pakistan and similar regions of Afghanistan. Many other village leaders in these rugged areas have asked "Dr. Greg" to help them educate girls in their villages, too.

Greg is married and has two children. He typically spends about half the year at his home in Bozeman, Montana and the rest overseeing site selection and construction of new schools. The book, mostly written as a biography by award-winning journalist David Oliver Relin, splices Greg's life with interviews of people who have helped him succeed or tried to hinder him.

The book's style is very interesting and brings the reader close to Greg. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this unique humanitarian and his efforts to promote peace in Central Asia.

As a side note, Greg's Central Asia Institute also runs the "Pennies for Peace" program in which American students raise money to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This school year, kids in the Tri-City area raised more than $30,000 for this effort.

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