What’s that book, Mommy?
It’s called Three Cups of Tea.
Why, Mommy? What’s that book about? Does it have pictures? Who are those people?
Well, Cameron, it’s a long book about a man and his work far, far away. Do you want me to tell you about it? Okay. This man was a mountain climber, and he went to a place called Pakistan to climb a very dangerous mountain. When he came back down, he found a small village that didn’t have a school for its kids. The kids still tried to learn, but with no school it’s hard. That’s right, they wanted to learn how to read. They had no money to build a school and no money to pay the teachers. The country was supposed to pay for them, but hadn’t. So that man went home, and he got some money, went back and built a school so the kids could learn, and grow up to be doctors and teachers. Yes, maybe even firefighters. Or mountain climbers like the man, okay. So that man found that there were more villages without schools, and where there weren’t enough schools. Then some other people started building schools, but teaching the kids wrong things, bad things. And some of them did some very bad things. People here started to think that everyone there was bad. People there started to think that everyone here was bad. But the man knew better. Even though it was very dangerous to go back there, and stay there, he did. He built more schools, and taught people here and there that we’re all the same, we’re mostly all good people who live different ways.
Mommy? We’re good people. Did he tell them that?
Yes, sweetheart, he did.
And those people are good people too.
Exactly. He might just be changing the world, my love.
That’s the bare bones of the book. I’m quite glad that I persevered and read it, despite my initial misgivings about the writing style. The adjectives were a little over the top, once or twice mis-used, which gave the first few chapters a pretentious feel and distracted from the message. Don’t misunderstand me, I like descriptive writing, and I understand that plain language probably is inadequate to describe some of the scenery. As my friend Judy suggested, either the style eases off a bit or you get so engrossed by the book and used to it that it ceases to be a problem.
The language of the book is not the main point. The book brought me to consider some of my own prejudices, ones that surprised me. Primarily these had to do with treatment of women in the Islamic world. Even though I knew better – after all, Pakistan was lead by Bhutto, a woman, for a long time, and an old friend of mine from grad school is Muslim – I was under the impression that across the board they didn’t value education of women and girls. Clearly from this book, this is not necessarily the case. I was also not aware, perhaps by chosen ignorance, of the educational and political background of the area that lends itself so well to the cultivation of extremist religious behaviour.
Once I got past the first few chapters, which took me some time, my interest picked up and I found it hard to put the book down. I highly recommend it, and will be lending it out to friends and family who wish to read it. It’s given me a fresh perspective on Central Asia, and some much-needed history. I’m going to have to give it some time to bounce around in my head a little, percolate through. Then perhaps as it passes back through my hands I’ll give it another read, as I’m certain that there is more there than one can absorb on one reading alone.
Many thanks to Dad and Janice for a lovely, thoughtful and thought-provoking gift!