Saturday, March 26, 2011

Three Cups of Tea

When George Bush decided to bomb and invade Afghanistan in search of Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban and all those behind the attack on the Twin Towers, Greg Mortenson shuddered, thinking of the pain would live so many families and friends. Also, the real risk where were the roughly 80 schools that had arisen at that time in Pakistan, mainly to educate girls.

Eight years before, Greg was about to die in these lands, but not because of any war. His passion for mountaineering had led him to collect dollar for dollar, saving his small salary as a nurse in a public hospital in California to be part of an expedition that set out to reach the summit of K2 in northern Pakistan on the border with China. However, besides failing in the attempt, ​​a storm caused broke up the group and lose several days trying to find his way back through the snow and cold.

When he almost had no strength, water and food, was miraculously found by a guide who took him to his village, Korphe, where he nurtured and fed until he was healthy again. In their days of recovery, Greg realized that the 84 children in the village had no school and in a spontaneous act of gratitude, promised to return to the village to build the school.

Ten years later, Greg was the manager of the Central Asia Institute, an NGO formed to support its effort to promote education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which had accumulated over 100 schools and over 80 thousand students, who in the midst of invasions , bombings and loss, were betting that, as Greg repeated endlessly, the real "war on terror" was not what Bush and Rumsfeld directed from Washington, but was being fought every day, stone by stone, building schools that offered children, especially girls from that area, an opportunity for a better life.

It was not always an easy road, and called on Greg necessarily learn the meaning of deep respect for the culture in which it was.

"Haji Ali spoke. ‘If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways. 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. Doctor Greg, you must take 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.’

That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I’ve ever learned in my life. We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly…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."

Jahan is the name of the first girl who graduated from the school of Korphe. Like Greg, she continued after studying nursing, specializing in maternity care. Like her, hundreds of women saw the future open thanks to the opportunity of a lifetime, the small school that not exist and that grateful enthusiasm of a nurse allowed to grow on land hit by the death and pain.

This is the story that the book "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, which chronicles the long road to Greg to understand and build, to transform stones into schools, and prejudice to hope. It's a story that reminds us once again the importance of education, but also brings us back to shake with the idea of the incredible power of a good idea and a person who decides to take it forward.

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