“The Afghans want their children to go to school because
literacy represents what neither we
nor anyone else has so far managed to offer them:
hope, progress and the possibility of controlling their own destiny.”
Greg Mortenson, Stones into Schools, pg. 318
Last night I finished reading Greg Mortenson's sequel to Three Cups of Tea. I say sequel, but even though it is a stand alone book the author's powerful message is the same ... building relationships and schools - schools for girls - is where the future lies for Afghanistan. And dare I say, the rest of the illiterate world.
I am not ashamed to say that I am a big Greg Mortenson fan. His first book opened my eyes and touched my heart. If it is possible I am now an even bigger fan. He may have had some help writing this book, I don't know, but it was a great piece of writing as well as story telling. There are several maps in the front of the book I had to keep referring to so I could keep my bearings about what was going on where. But I didn't need a photograph to see the places he described. His metaphors, like "Windex-blue water" made the writer in me swoon.
STS picks up kind of where 3CoT leaves off. It continues the efforts made by Mortenson, the CAI, his crews in Afghanistan and a couple trusty sidekicks to build schools in the war ravaged, quake-riddled, most remote parts of Afghanistan. Places where things have not changed much since Marco Polo visited. Places you'd think there would be no cell-phone or wireless Internet connections. Places where the US is trying to replace the mujadeen, who replaced the Taliban, who replaced the Soviets. Places where tribal elders see the real way to reduce poverty, infant mortality, and certain extinction is in the education of its people. It seems like a no-brainer. Mortenson is putting his time, talent, and monies into making the dreams of the school children and elders alike come true. At great risk to his personal health and relationships I might add. I'm not sure where he gets his inner and outer strength. Partly he admits that it came from the people he had working with/for him. Some of the escapades/challenges/adventures were, I think, the stuff epic movies are made from.
If you haven't read or hear anything by/about this man, it is my humble opinion that you should stop everything you are doing and give either 3CoT or StS a go. 3CoT has become required reading for some of the top military brass now serving in Afghanistan. Again, it's just my opinion, but I think it should be required reading for everyone in the human race.
I don't know what it takes to get a Nobel Peace Prize. I don't take anything away from our esteemed president, but if the nominating and selecting were up to me, this humble man from Montana, and his dirty dozen, would be at the very top of the list. And I am hereby starting a grass roots campaign to see that he gets what he justly deserves.
[That said, if there is a similar medal for those behind the scenes then it should go to the wives and children of the men on the move. These staunch supporters have been left behind for weeks on end with little or no news from the front. And still they encourage the movement. God bless them.]
If I had to say one disparaging thing about the StS/Mortenson phenom it would be that when I went to his web site this morning to find out if there are any speaking engagements scheduled nearby, sadly there are none closer than Orlando. Several are private. Those that aren't are sold out. I also discovered the high price of fame. There is a $25,000 fee to schedule an engagement. I know that the money will go to a good cause. I know that Mortenson more than deserves whatever he rakes in. But I'm kind of sad that fame has made him almost as inaccessible as the Hindu Kush he writes about.
Wishing for you and those you know time spent with a good book,
P.S. Listen to the Wind, is another book about building schools in Pakistan/Afghanistan. It's basically a 3CoT picture book for kids - and grown ups alike.