Dianne's Reviews > Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
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's review
Feb 03, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction
Recommended for: NGOs, current events
Read from February 03 to 08, 2010

Before I read this book, I thought Balti was synonymous with Birmingham (UK) cuisine. I know know that there is a tribe the Balti, living in Baltistan, Northern Pakistan, who earn extra money portering for climbing parties to K2 and Everest. The only dishes mentioned are Biryani and Kabuli pilau.

The book is obviously written by one person, David Oliver Relin, a journalist. Greg Mortenson's name is on it to identify and promote the cause he is interested in - the CAI- and because it is his biography. It is more honest than the usual celebrity autobiography, whose name fills the cover while a ghostwriter does the (often very poor) writing.

I found it an easy read with some nice touches, and some atrocious sentences. But the subject matter is fascinating. Greg Mortenson's drive to provide primary education in the impoverished tribal areas of Pakistan, and as a by-product to pay teachers who had not received their salaries for 2 years in overcrowded government schools. Yes, I agree that the tone is at times cloyingly worshipful, but I think Greg's personality comes through well - a man with a great gift for friendship, who is impulsive, tenacious, stupidly brave and clearly quite incompetent when it comes to organisation. His gift is languages and an ability to live rough.

The narrative tends to drag in the middle but picks up in the last third when we are given the opportunity to see the effects of world events on tribal areas along the Afghan border and the Line of Control seperating Pakistan and Indian Kashmir - the Kargil Conflict, 9/11, the assassination of Massoud and the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the first Iraq War.

After the Kargil Conflict, the Saudis poured money for madrassas and Mosques into what were Shiite tribal areas in Pakistan. The madrasses are Sunni institutions, and the influx of Saudi wealth forms as much a missionary drive as any seen from the Christian west in recent decades. Of course they were just filling an educational vacuum, in the same way the Greg Mortenson was trying to, but with infinately more resources. But we witness the consequences of this on an almost daily basis in news reports today.

Musharraf gets a thumbs up for his efforts to control corruption. Military auditors visited outlying villages to find out whether the funded schools and clinics had been built, and under his military dictatorship money did begin to trickle down for the first time.

America gets a thumbs down as promised aid to Afghanistan is diverted to build runways and military bases in Kuwait and UAE.


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Reading Progress

02/06/2010 page 252
68.48% "Fascinating. Just reading about the extension of Madrassas into NE Pakistan. Very relevant to current events."

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