The first cup, you are a stranger …


‘Three cups of tea’ is an amazing true story about a man, Greg Mortensen, who being moved by the kindness of the people of Korphe, a remote village up in the Karakoram mountains, promised to return and build them a school. In the next few years, he struggled to save the little he earn as a nurse, laboured to raise the money and finally to rise above the challenges of building a school in the remote part of the world.

Just ask yourself, would you bother with people you hardly knew living half-way across the globe, other than to put in some extra notes when the collection bag comes along? What more if you were broke and jobless, living out of a small rented space? Would you seriously put yourself in harms way, in the path of fatwas and tribesmen bearing AK-47s , or even attempt to enter the Line of Control in Kashmir or the Mujahadeen controlled-lands of north Afghanistan, just to build a school for girls?

Yet Greg Mortenson did all that and in the process he encountered the beauty of the people living with the lack of modern conveniences, and learned the wisdom of their ways.

Here is a short write-up.

Excerpts from the book.

The right reason …
A Republican congressman from California interrupted Mortenson in midsentence, challenging him. “Building schools for kids is just fine and dandy, but our primary need as a nation is security. Without security, what does all this matter?”

“I don’t do what I’m doing to fight terror,” Mortenson said. “I do it because I care about kids. Fighting terror is maybe seventh or eighth on my list of priorities. But working over there, I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that terror doesn’t happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simply decide to hate us. It happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death.”

Wisdom of the Balti, from Haji Ali, the nurmadhar of korphe village, and Mortensons’ mentor.
Haji Ali spoke.”If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways, “Haji Ali said, blowing on the bowl. “The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honoured 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,” he said, laying his hand warmly on Mortensen’s own.

“That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I’ve ever learned in my life,” Mortensen says. “We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. We’re the country of thirty-minute power lunches and two-minute football drills. Our leaders thought their ‘shock and awe’ campaign could end the war in Iraq before it even started. Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make 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.”

K2, one failure that led to his many triumphs

‘Dr Greg’ and the children

More of Greg doing what he does best

One thought on “The first cup, you are a stranger …

  1. SoupLad says:

    must be a big leap of faith in the things he believe.he is probably one of the rare “black swans”.

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