Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Three Cups of Tea

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Three Cups of Tea

One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

by David O. Relin, Greg Mortenson

Three Cups of Tea by David O. Relin, Greg Mortenson
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2006, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2007, 352 pages

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The book's title comes from the advice given to Mortenson, over cups of scalding butter tea, by the chief of the village where the first school was built:

"The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored 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. Doctor Greg, you must make time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated, but we are not stupid. We have survived here for a long time."

As Mortenson says, "that day Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I've ever learned. We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. Our leaders thought their 'shock and awe' campaign could end the war in Iraq before it even started. Haji Ali taught me to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had much more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them."

The Central Asian Institute (CAI) sounds very grand and established but, in reality, until recently it ran out of the basement of Greg's house with a small, and poorly paid staff in Pakistan. Today, in large part due to an article in Parade Magazine in April 2003, the Institute has a small staff and Greg is able to earn a living wage for the first time in a decade - and, most importantly, the CAI is welcomed and able to continue doing good in areas of the world where most Americans fear to tread.

This article was originally published in March 2006, and has been updated for the January 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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