Book Club: 2nd Steep - Three Cups of Tea

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Okay, here we go onto week #4’s questions… chapters 14 – 18

Chapter 14 (The photo chapter!!)
1. Any thoughts on the photos? (Or, the one very obviously missing photo?) Are there any photos that you would have liked to see?

2. This chapter is named “Equilibrium.” In what areas can equilibrium be found?

Chapter 15
3. Why do you feel the fatwa was declared on Mortenson?

4. Why was Mortenson suddenly able to have three schools built in just three months? What changed?

5. Any thoughts on the Korphe Women’s Vocational Center?

Chapter 16
6. What was the difference between educating boys and girls in that region?

7. What level did girls need to reach and why did it make a difference?

8. How do you feel about what was taught in the schools and what wasn’t?

Chapter 17
9. How is Mortenson involved when the refugees begin arriving into Skardu?

10. What are your thoughts about Fatima Batool’s journey to Skardu?

Chapter 18
11. What are some of Mortenson’s frustrations with fundraising?

12. When Mother Teresa dies, Mortenson goes to pay his respects. How is she a role model for him?

13. Mortenson’s mother-in-law says that he’s just “not one of us.” Do you agree or disagree?

All chapters –
14. Any tea thoughts? Tea comes up again in a few of these chapters (Mullah Gulzar, for example.)

5. Any thoughts on the Korphe Women’s Vocational Center? I have to respond to this one, because this captured my attention. It’s one thing to build a school – and I’m not knocking it, don’t throw tomatoes at me! – but to create a center where an oppressed people can better themselves? Awesome. I wish he had included more interviews with the women who went through those vocational schools. Amazing.

I, too, was thrilled that he did this, but was also kind of disappointed that he left it there. I thought it was a perfect addition to the girls’ education, if they weren’t able to qualify for a scholarship and go on to high school. I wondered if their goal was to get the girls through fifth grade, what did they do then?

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Ah I am so behind! I’ve only finished chapter 10.

So far, I feel one thing that makes me like this book very much is, Pakistan is a totally unknown world to me, but this book takes us to the daily life of Pakistani, not just surface view of tourists.

I did go through the photos from the very beginning :-p First I have to say that I felt released Mortenson did manage to establish a family (seeing from the photos). I am a very practical person, and when I see stories of heroic figures, I often automatically think about the practical aspects of their lives, such as, can they make a living? Have they got their soul mates? My impression from the first half of the book is, Mortenson is an idealist and his thoughts are often far away from the “real world”. I would worry that he couldn’t keep a woman for long, if not seeing the photos :D

Uniquity said

We’ll see how you feel about that at the end of the book! :) I think my views on Mortenson are not the same as many others though.

teawing said

I agree Gingko, idealism and relationships are not very compatible.
This is open forum Uniquity, I would love to hear your views on him.
Heck, it might generate some discussion!

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It’s our last set of book club questions, but hopefully not the end of discussion. Hopefully you’ve all had the chance to finish reading the book and I’d like to encourage anyone at all who has read it to hop in and join our discussion of Three Cups of Tea.

Chapter 19
1. What do you feel about Syed Abbas’ speech?

2. What does Haji Ali tell Mortenson to do when he, Haji Ali, dies? Does his advice help Mortenson?

3. What are your thoughts about Mortenson’s 9/11 experience in Pakistan?

Chapter 20
4. How well educated was Mullah Omar, the supreme Taliban leader? Why does this matter?

5. What kind of response awaited Mortenson upon his return to Montana? What are your thoughts?

Chapter 21
6. What happened to the Hemasil school? How was the problem of the second fatwa
resolved? Why was Mortenson surprised?

7. What happened to the aid money from the US promised to Afghanistan? When the
Pentagon offers to help Mortenson, why won’t he take money from the US government? Do you think Mortenson made the right decision?

Chapter 22
8. Notice that the tea being served now is Lipton! Read the last sentence of this chapter. Explain the references to letters, rams, years.

9. How did the Parade article change things?

10. Do you agree that the solution to terrorism is education?

Chapter 23
11. Explain the title of the chapter. What do you think of it?

12. How important is the education of the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan to the
rest of the world?

13. What does Mortenson commit to do at the end of the book?

14. Tea Talk? Anything you want to discuss? Do you believe that Sakina would be happier with paiyu cha or Lipton and what it represented for her granddaughter?

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3. What are your thoughts about Mortenson’s 9/11 experience in Pakistan? OK, I’m going to show my true colors here: this was a difficult part in the story to get through. I do not agree that education is the solution to terrorism. This book got political – too political – too quickly and I didn’t care for this. Mortenson is an idealist; if the Muslim religion didn’t teach, preach and encourage violence then education could be a viable solution to end terrorism. He has a heart of gold, but he sees the world much more differently than I do. I see the Middle East as a danger zone, where as a woman who is opinionated and proud of it, would be oppressed and even killed. I think of Daniel Pearl. That religion and way of life doesn’t believe in freedom, and as an American who lives by free will, I don’t think for one minute that education would end terrorism. Terrorists have one-track minds, full of hate – and ignorance. I don’t think anything will change that, and while Mortenson is doing a wonderful thing, I think he still has a bit to learn about humanity.
I’m trying not to offend anyone with my comments; if this were a political forum I wouldn’t care, but I enjoy friendships here so I’ll step off my soapbox and fix another cup of tea. :)

Uniquity said

I like to hope that his PoV on the education = no more terrorism issue was more that it would be a long term strategy: Unlikely to change those who are already indoctrinated, but offering a different future to the youth and making a nation of fewer terrorists several/many generations down the line. Not to imply that you didn’t get that (or even that it’s his point!), I just can’t allow myself to believe that education of the youth (men and women) would do nothing to change the world.

teawing said

I agree with you, education is part of the problem, but not the complete solution. It is clear in the book, and in many other sources that Muslims are not very tolerant of outsiders unless they take great measures to show the utmost respect for the teachings if Islam. While reading I wondered if Mortenson had been Christian, Hindu, or Buddist, would he have been able or allowed the opportunity to build the schools. It even took a ruling from the clerics to allow him to continue, because what he was doing was so far out of the box. To me, this is evidence that education is not the only problem, tolerance and competing worldviews have more to do with it.
While we are at it, what about the multiple use of “kaffir” by Muslims to describe Mortenson, is this not “the unlawful, intentional and serious violation of the dignity of another”??? Kaffir is a racial slur in many countries…
I am not trying to offend anyone either, but as KiTT stated, words like freedom, terrorism, oppression, opinion, and education can have different meanings depending on your location.

There’s so much that I want to say here. It has been a while since I’ve had time to hop on line and just write down my thoughts. I’m in complete agreement that the end of this book took on a completely different tone. So much so, that I can’t help but wonder if the book’s title is misleading. I thought he offered to build the first school as a sincere gesture of appreciation to the village people of Korphe for helping him. I didn’t think that his intention was to create peace through building schools. There were some HUGE jumps made in the last four or five chapters that didn’t fit with the rest of the book. Or, at least, that were lacking transitions.

The ending of the book is very political. I even felt that the authors were mocking the U.S. government. (The way they handled him over the passport issue, the way they offered him the $2.2 million and tried to flaunt how they could disguise the details, how they would use the planes to fly in “indulgences” for the military, but wouldn’t allow a humanitarian flight.) I lost my connection to the book around the same time.

I believe wholeheartedly that Mortenson was doing great things, but I also believe that it was at the cost of his own family and somewhat of Americans in general. Please don’t get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of global humanitarianism, but not at the expense of anyone’s reputation or well-being. The kicker was the little notes on how we can help at the end. After finishing off a disappointing ending, I’m prompted to make sure that this book is available in my local library, talk about it with my friends and loan them my copy, too?

I want to go on, but need to put my kids to bed before it gets too late… Perhaps more later…

teawing said

I think most of the issues with the ending of the book have been mentioned here. I think QG stated it well, that Mortenson built the first school from a personal gesture of appreciation and it turned into a “cause”. Causes grow faster than imagined, include allies and partners that might not be compatible, demand sacrifice (family) and usually require serious compromises. I did not like the end of the book, the anti-american/anti-government attitude, and the oversimplification of the conflict and solution for the problems in the Middle East. I appreciated the insight into the history of the region, the details of the culture, and in the beginning, Mortenson’s selfless work on behalf of those in need. They lost me on the last 1/4 or so of the book.

Uniquity said

I’ve gotta say, it’sbeen a while since I read this book and my main emotional response is still extreme annoyance with Mortensen as a person, but I don’t know that I really picked up on the anti-American attitude as strongly as you three seem to have. I’m extremely willing to chalk that up to being Canadian though, since I look at the US far differently than most Americans do.

I did, however, have a big problem with the ways in which he could abandon his own family, friends and country all for what I percieved as his endless belief that Afghanistan is more deserving/important. By no means am I comparing life in the two countries, but I think he failed in his responsibility to his wife and his children, to say the least.

Uniquity – you are absolutely right. He did abandon his family, more or less, for his cause. Although his wife must have known that going into the marriage, the same way a service wife (or husband!) knows that her (or his!) spouse won’t be around as often as she (or he!) would like. Sure, it’s a great cause he’s championing for and good for him and all that. But I have to say if my husband decided all of the sudden to donate his time to another country I would feel he is betraying his own country. I can’t explain why I feel this way. It’s not a betrayal that would cost lives, or be an act of treason, or anything serious like that. I guess my point is I would want to help my fellow American rather than help out a country that breeds terror.

OK. That’s all I’m saying on this book. Let’s pick another! :) Anyone for Laura Childs’ books?

Since he has been like this all the time, and his wife (and his ex) knew it upon knowing it, I don’t think his mission on building school is abandoning his family or girlfriend. I have quite a few friends who don’t lead a “normal” life with a “real” job, so I kind of understand it. But I remember when I read about he and Dr. Marina, I felt he didn’t treat Marina fairly. He thought Marina left him because he was broke (indicated in his conversation with Haji Ali’s son), but I don’t think so, since Marina asked him out when he had nothing and she knew his lifestyle. I think what caused Marina to leave him is, he acted as if she didn’t exist after he took off to Pakistan. He didn’t treat Tara in the same way later. Probably he learned from his previous relationship. Anyway, obviously, he and Tara match each other better. But I think it’s over-simplification to paint Marina as un-supportive.

Also I don’t think it’s a betrayal to America when he helps Pakistan. Many people do things feeling it’s pre-destined. He passed by the back villages of Pakistan, and formed strong friendship with local people, and then felt strong urge to do something good for them. It’s like sometimes we help one person, but didn’t do anything for another. It’s not because the second person is less worthy than the first one, but because we feel it’s our destiny to help him.

Besides, I don’t think Pakistan is a country that breeds terror. Its current situation is largely caused by its colonial history and many international factors.

But I am awfully slow in reading , and am still on chapter 14. So I haven’t read much yet about the political views you guys talked about.

It’s a noble thing to do something for another person, other people or another community, regardless of where they live in the world. Kudos to him. Those communities were extremely deserving of it. The issue I had with the book is all of the digs at people who happen to be from his home country. I’d never use my message of “peace” as his morphed to be to make anyone else out as being foolish or abusive. He took every chance to strike back at people, like the 580 to whom he sent letters requesting money. Personally, I wouldn’t have donated to him either, not knowing him. So Oprah didn’t pay for his cause, he didn’t have to knock her, or even mention her name.

Uniquity said

I know that I am more sensitive to this than many other people because of my own past but for the family issue again: his wife knew his personality and that’s great. She’s okay with him being in another country 3 + months of the year? Fine! BUT, his children didn’t sign up for an absentee Dad who’s totally devoted to a cause. I know it could be much worse (abuse, actually absent, deadbeat, drugs, etc.) but his absence from his children’s lives and development is a big deal to me that was largely glossed over. You can pick your husband or wife, but never your parents! : )

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P.S. I vote for something more light-hearted as our next book! :)

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teawing said

I second that (respectfully) :)

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2. I love what Haji Ali told Mortenson about needing to “listen to the wind” when he (Haji Ali) dies. I thought it could be taken in so many ways, none of them necessarily incorrect. That he was a part of the afterlife, that he had returned to nature, that the wind would tell his story… It was interesting imagining exactly what he could have meant. It reminded me of how closely connected to (and how much at the mercy of) nature the Korphe villagers were. Mortenson heard the children’s voices, the same children who had the promise of an education; the promise of a future.

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Gina said

This was a great book and I would love to participate as well.

Feel free to hop in and comment on any part of it at all, or any impressions you have! :)

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LadyKeira said

Has a decision been made regarding the next book to read? I am not sure if there is a suggestion list somewhere? As I am new to the group, I’m not sure if you have read this book but ….The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donelly is a good read. If there is a formal suggestion list somewhere, please forgive me for stepping in here.

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teawing said

Ok folks, I think it is time to get another book going. We need a volunteer to post questions and help lead the discussion with me. QG is stepping back for a while…

So, the floor is open for book suggestions, and for leaders to stand and deliver…



I will volunteer to post questions and lead the discussion with you. :)

Awesome! And I will be an excellent reader and participant! :)

teawing said

Great, thanks KiTT for stepping up and we all appreciated QG’s efforts with “three cups” which was in the news today…
Next task is to choose a new book.
The floor is open for suggestions!

What was it in the news for?
EDIT: Ah… nevermind. I just found it on That’s sad to read.

teawing said

Yes, sad indeed. I wonder if some of the issues we noticed were actually pointing to something wrong like this. I am not for judging without a lengthy trial, but it does not sound good for Mortenson at this point.
Reminds me of a historian’s revisionist history of guns in America, he won tons of awards, was embraced by the gun control movement for debunking the widespread use of guns and the very foundations of the so called “gun culture” and then…they found out most of his reasearch was made up, pure fabrication. He had to give back many awards among other things he lost…
A cause can be powerful…

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