Monday, August 3, 2009

Review of a book and pondering life

I am always, always, always looking for new books to read. Books with compelling plots and interesting, three-dimensional and complex characters, books that make me think. Books are my escapism, my way of leaving behind my cares and letting my mind dwell on something besides my own overanalyzed reality for a while. Books helped me get through long weeks of pain and discouragement as a physically impaired teenager and they helped me relax as a stressed college student. Three years ago after a rather messy summertime breakup, I have no idea how many books I plowed through to prevent my mind from wandering back to the boy I had just severed from my life.

Oftentimes though, in seeking an escape, I discover a different door than the one I originally set out to find. Oftentimes the escapism ends up bringing me to a new reality and sets me down in the middle of a brand-new landscape, where I begin to feel my way around a new topic with curiosity and excitement.

The book I finished this evening did just that. To be perfectly honest, the book itself left something wanting; it felt to me like it couldn't make up its mind if it wanted to be a novel or a biography and it didn't seam the two genres together as flawlessly as I would like. However, I have read few books that present a more compelling story than Three Cups of Tea.

It's the modern version of the American dream come to life, the kind of story that inspires everyone because everyone would like to believe that they have the ability to do what the protagonist, Greg Mortensen, has done. By taking a wrong turn on his way down from an attempt to summit K2 (the world's second tallest mountains, found in the Karakoram Himalaya of Pakistan), Mortensen found himself lost in a remote Pakistani village called Korphe, where the houses clung precariously to the edges of mountainous cliffs. After observing how the children were so thirsty for education that they would study every day outside without the benefit of a building or even a real teacher, Mortensen was so touched that he promised the villagers of Korphe that he would return and build them a school.

The only problem was that Mortensen was essentially broke. He returned to California and lived out of a storage unit and his car while he saved all the money he could to take back to Korphe. After years of incredibly hard living, his dream of building a school in Korphe was achieved, and slowly evolved into the building of the Central Asia Institute, dedicated to the cause of building schools for children, especially girls, in the remote regions of Pakistan and now Afghanistan. Mortensen believes that the war on terror will not truly be effectively fought unless we focus our efforts on the root of the problem- ignorance. It is where ignorance lies supreme that terrorists find their most willing recruits, taking them out of the poorest villages and offering them their own form of twisted education, padded by a payroll that they cannot garner at home.

With all this, I was fascinated that Mortensen feels so strongly about focusing on educating the girls of the villages. However, as he points out, "Once you educate the boys they tend to leave the villages and go search for work in the cities. But the girls stay home, become leaders in the community, and pass on what they've learned. If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care, and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls."

I think that's true, and I think it makes an excellent case for two things that Latter-day Saint leaders have been counseling for a long time: women should get an education, and they should stay home to raise their children whenever possible. An education is not wasted on a woman who then chooses to use it not in the workforce, but in the walls of her own home. I don't have the blessing of being a wife and mother at present, but when that opportunity becomes available to me, I can't wait to take my master's degree and apply it towards raising children to think inquisitively and question the world around them, hopefully finding as much joy in learning as I do.

Really, if women are going to stay home and raise children and be responsible for the upkeep of the next generation, it's inconceivable that they shouldn't be educated. Which is why I'm developing a deep-rooted interest in the Central Asia Institute and the work they're doing to improve the lives of everyone in Central Asia by improving the educational opportunities of Central Asia's girls and women. I encourage you to check it out, take a look. See what you think for yourself. Get a copy of Three Cups of Tea and see for yourself what you think. And let me know.

Central Asia Institute homepage:

Three Cups of Tea homepage:


Tricia said...

By the by, Mr. Mortensen is coming to BYU for a forum in October. I am assigning my students to listen to (and analyze) his speech.

And I'd like to read the beforehand. I'm really glad you posted your review!

Emily said...

I read this book a few months ago and I loved it. It's very inspiring to see what one person can do. Although, I'd like to know more about his wife's side of the story. It didn't mention much about what happened with her when he was gone. I think it would have been really hard. The general authorities are always saying that the most important work that we'll ever do is within the walls of our own homes.