Book Review: Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea

51y1wzsq3wl_sl160_When Greg Mortenson got lost coming down K2 and drifted into an impoverished Pakistani village, he had little thought beyond trying to survive.  But he was so struck by the kindness and hospitality of the people he met, he became determined to do something in return.  He decided to build schools.  However, in a striking and moving scene, the village elder turned him down.  “We need a bridge,” he explained.   And so Mortenson learned his first lesson in patience.

The title comes from the custom of drinking three cups of tea in Pakistan and Afghanistan: The first time you share tea you are a stranger.  The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you drink a cup of tea, you become family.  “Doctor Greg,” said the village elder Haji Ali, “you must make 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.”

Mortenson writes that Haji Ali taught him the most important lesson he’d ever learned:  to slow down and make building relationships as important as building schools.

This is one of my favorite books.  It is an extraordinary story of grit and determination, and a willingness to be open to the unfamiliar customs of a different culture. This would make a perfect gift for that friend or family member who has a passion for helping others.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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