Book Club: 2nd Steep - Three Cups of Tea

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Mortenson is always too hard on himself. He holds himself to a higher standard – and while there is nothing wrong with that, it makes him trust people who shouldn’t be trusted. I agree, QuiltGuppy about Changazi – but something about how “helpful” he was at first made me not trust him at all. Anytime anyone approaches Mortenson I think, “OK, how is this guy gonna rip him off?” I am definitely not a trusting person myself – I’m trustworthy but don’t trust others… I wasn’t surprised that the supplies were “relocated,” but I was surprised at how trusting Mortenson is.

Q: How are Americans (from the U.S.) perceived abroad. Do you have any personal experiences of this? Are these views justified or fair. Why are we viewed in these ways? Does “American” fit ALL of us or only those public figures who show up in the press. Is it fair to judge the rest of us on the ideas or behaviors of a few?

I really thought about this question, as I do when I read books written about other cultures. (I’m thinking of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, if anyone has read that.) I’m a patriot and I love my country, so I get annoyed when I read about other country’s improper perceptions of us. Yes there are idiots that “represent” us, and unfortunately idiots help sell papers. I believe many parts of the world have the wrong idea about us, just as we may have the wrong idea about them.

While I treasure the humility and kindness of Mortenson, part of me questions why he doesn’t help American children in the same situation. I try to keep an open mind and his heart is in the right place. But why is it that the Korphe people struck a nerve when we have homeless children in America? I get that part of Korphe’s “charm” is The Village perception – that modern civilization hasn’t been there to harm. I’m getting off topic. Once again, I’m a patriot and proud to be American. I take my heritage and this country’s history and legacy seriously.

That being said, though, I can certainly appreciate one’s love for his or her place of origin such as Korphe. I can see finding love in a town like Korphe as there are American towns I have fallen in love with too. I don’t see how anyone can steal from someone trying to help their fellow man, regardless of where he came from and where he is going.

I still think this book is about the spiritual, physical and emotional journey of Mortenson, of course, but I hope other characters grow in ways that positively surprise us. I keep hoping for a “sea change” in Changazi… funny, I don’t trust anyone but I do want to see the good in them. I feel like I’m an oxymoron! :)

teawing said

Changazi concerns me too, but I love the reference to Khan…maybe it is my own suspiciousness, but Mortenson seems naive at times in the story and I am always waiting for someone to take advantage of that.

Your point about Mortenson helping children in his homeland is an excellent issue. Nothing against building schools in any part of the world for any children, I have wondered why Hoerni was so ready to fund a project over seas, when could have helped closer to home. Not to jump ahead but his deathbed wishes, almost seem to me, a little boastful and focused on getting the school built, rather than the people it helped. It could be that Mortenson didn’t focus on US kids because there are dozens of programs for them (although many aren’t very effective) and while he would face resistance in Pakistan, he was hopeful of success. Roadblocks in the the US would have been different and perhaps insurmountable…
Regardless, I am glad you made that point. It is worth consideration.
One thing is for sure, while there are children in need everywhere, you can’t deny the children of Korphe. What a difficult childhood!

A journey of the spiritual, physical, and emotional…Mortenson is starting to sound archetypal, and I have to agree.

You’re exactly right – Mortenson is naive, and I too wait for him to be taken advantage of, muttering, “I told you so.” And yes he does seem too driven on building schools rather than helping the kids. I wonder if his attitude changes?

I agree on your other points too; not trying to deny the poor kids in Korphe and roadblocks in the US are often blocked by red tape first and then unmovable. Still, it tugs at my heart in ways I can’t explain…

teawing said

It tugs at my heart too, it probably should for everyone…
QG touched on this in her post, the larger questions “what can I do” and “where will it make the most difference” we all have limited time and resources, wise choices are so important and there are never any guaranteed results.

One of the ways in which we try to empower students with action is through academic service learning. Can you imagine if everyone decided to do some humanitarian work, no matter how small? What a huge difference it would make.

teawing said

What a difference indeed…we are requiring service learning for most degree plans too, helps those engineers to be a little more human! :)

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I am up to chapter 12, so I will refrain from any other comments until I figure out where we are “supposed” to be. :)

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teawing said

I finished 14 last night myself. I am going to post some comments today.
If Jen is up to it, she will be posting questions for this week. I think we are a little off the original schedule anyway, and that is ok! Next time we will have a better idea of participant reading speeds…

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OK, then I will keep going. :) I am surprised at how much I am enjoying this book. :)

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I’m still feeling pretty miserable, but I’m going to put questions up tonight. (After the kids go to bed.) I managed to make it in to school for a half day today, then left.

I’m almost finished with the book, as it doesn’t seem like many others are joining in, I’ll put questions through to chapter 12. That way we don’t have to watch what we write. :) (I cyber-yelled at twing before for reading too far and now here I sit, doing the same thing! – Sorry, twing!)

teawing said

No worries Jen, hope you get to feeling better soon.
Hang in there,

I love a book that sets it’s own pace for everyone!

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I’ve only finished chapter 8. I take foot spa about 3 times a week before going to bed, and usually catch up my reading during that time :D

I am still amazed he did all these, raising the money, buying the materials and having them transported all the way to Korphe. That’s something I can’t imagine myself capable of. But then, I remember when I read the first 2 chapters, I was amazed how he survived all the dangerous situations in his climbing and when he got lost. I always admire people who do well in outdoor activities and cope with the wildness as well as with their back yards. I think there is some kind of bond between them and the nature that make them strong and powerful.

Oh, what I would do for a foot spa! :) Or a bath without small children climbing in for that matter. Sounds like a perfect reading time!

I’ve often wondered about people who seem to have a bond with nature. I’ve met others who interact so harmoniously with nature that it seems to me there must be something more than just knowing about it. I agree with you.

teawing said

Good to see you back with us QG! Must be feeling better?

Chapter 9 Question 1: One of the things I really enjoy in a good book is the anticipation of finding the chapter title’s reference(if the author chose to title them). In this case, connecting Mortenson’s lovelife, the Republican takeover of congress and the desire of the people of Korphe to build a bridge before the school is IMO good writing.

Chapter 11 Question 3: My views on this have been posted, I would like to know what you all think…

Chapter 13 Question 8: For me it was 9-11 and all the feelings came flooding back. I looked up some footage of the attacks, took my copy of the commission report off the shelf and looked at it…considered the fact that many of those people he mentioned are likely dead now, but others have taken their place. This line of thinking went further when Mortenson described Syed Abbas and his life’s mission of peace,(I am jumping ahead as usual) all that comes to mind is that they think we are ALL decadent, worldly, heathen, barbarians and we think they are ALL radical, militant, violent extemists. And no one is right…

Gingko I love this: “I think there is some kind of bond between them and the nature that make them strong and powerful.” YES! Mortenson does possess great strength in many ways.

I’ve met people who have this bond and can do amazing things. My grandfather is actually one of those people. He’ll go into his overgrown backyard with one tool and a couple hours later there’s a trail, a birdhouse, etc.

I’ll respond to the other questions in a bit. But I loved how you wrote that thought, Gingko and completely agree!

KeenTeaThyme, what you said about grandfather also makes me think that it seems our grandparent generation has a lot more hands-on work in their lives than us, and probably stayed closer to nature than many of us!

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Okay, it’s time for week 3’s questions, which are chapters 9-13. (Even further than I thought I was supposed to do!)

Chapter 9
1. How does the title of Chapter 9 relate to the content?

Chapter 10
2. What are the pros and cons of building a bridge into Korphe?

Chapter 11
3. Why does Hoerni say that Mortenson will not get any help from Americans? (In light of the recent discussion, I think this question fits right in!)

4. Where did Mortenson meet his future wife? How does it fit in with the story?

Chapter 12
5. What is Haji Ali’s lesson?

6. How does the bridge in Korphe empower the women? How does this fit with the school’s ideals?

7. Why does Mortenson say that Haji Ali is the wisest man he ever met?

Chapter 13
8. What did you think about when you read that part of this chapter was about the Taliban?

9. Why did Mortenson want to go to Wazeristan? What advice was he given?

10. How did Mortenson deal with his capitivity? Why do you think he was released?

And, of course, any questions, thoughts, or comments you may have are welcomed into the discussion!

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Hey, twing. Yes, feeling a little better, although I still have lingering thoughts that this is pneumonia and not just bronchitis. I’m still having trouble…

Anyway, in regards to Q3, I think Hoerni was devoted because he, too, was a climber. In fact, he heard about Mortenson’s quest through the newsletter. (If I’m remembering correctly.) I think both men had an affinity for the region as it was where they both did their major mountain climbs. To some extent, I can see devotion to an area that is hit so hard and has absolutely no resources whatsoever to turn to in time of need, which, especially for the cut-off village of Korphe is 24/7. While I agree that there are numerous American children in need as well, frankly, we have services here that are not available in Pakistan. Could a school be built here for just $12,000? Would Mortenson’s dreams have been attainable if he tried them in mountainous regions of the US? I don’t know for certain, but I’m guessing no. Also, international relations are ever so much more important in our new, global society. Many of us have daily contact with people from other countries (I do, and I know on Steepster there are many from other countries, too.) I don’t see it so much as neglecting a specific population of potential recipients; that’s going to happen regardless, as it does in any choice. Someone will lose out. Instead of reaching our immediate community, Mortenson was reaching an outlying community, of which we all are a part on a global scale. I have an issue with borders, but that is an entirely different conversation. Hoerni was Swiss himself, not American. He automatically had a larger, more international view of the world. It changes one’s perspective. Now, all that is not to say that anyone who is in need is more deserving or less deserving of charity, but I truly feel that it’s okay that he chose to help others elsewhere in the world. In the long run, it may have changed not just a small mountain-dwelling community, but the world.

Q9 – I’m not really certain why Mortenson was so driven to visit Wazeristan. I’m wondering if there wasn’t some amount of political motivation behind his decision, that he was hoping to be able to manipulate the tenuous relationship of the religiously devout with the rest of the region, albeit on a very small scale. Almost a way of making peace with the region. As his explanation for his presence in the region didn’t influence his captors, but his exhibited religious practices seemed to be the only thing to make a difference. I didn’t think this was a smart choice. As much as I like Mortenson, I almost felt like he had walked into that situation.

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LadyKeira said

Very new to this site and feel as if I’ve discovered a jewel. I am wondering if this is the first book club discussion that you have done? I have read both Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools. I’m wondering if you plan to discuss more books and can newbies join in?

teawing said

Yes you can join in! Welcome! There have been some book discussions in the past, but this is the only one active at the moment. We have some other books on the list after Three Cups…so, make yourself at home and jump in wherever you wish. QuiltGuppy is running the show, I help where needed.

LadyKeira said

Thank you Twing. I will catch up on the discussion around this book but may wait until the next book starts before jumping in with my two cents worth :-)

Please feel free to jump right in. I, too, have finished reading the book. (Couldn’t help myself!) We’re in the last two weeks right now and you’re more than welcome to join in the book club. I’ll be posting new questions tonight after I get my kids to bed, which hopefully won’t be too late with this time change. (I hate “spring forward” and very much prefer “fall behind.”) :)

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teawing said

Oh I also meant to say, a jewel indeed! I have learned a lot about tea and met some nice folks here.

LadyKeira said

So much to learn and such a delicious way of learning!!! Really “warm” way of making new friends, too. :-)

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