Three cups of tea

November 7, 2008

“Here (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family and for our family we are prepared to do anything – even die.”

– Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan.

I read a lot but I almost never read narratives. I also realized that I don’t read fiction anymore. I can’t seem to find the patience to read about something that didn’t actually happen (which seems to me to be a loss somehow).

I recently finished reading “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I’d bought the book while I was in Cambodia for missions 3 months back. Relin isn’t the best writer but I don’t read non-fiction for the cleverness of the writing. A powerful story tells itself and this was a powerful story.

It made me think about the importance of education for all children, not for education’s sake but rather as a tool to level up opportunity for the disadvantaged. It made me think about the impact 1 person can have by being a catalyst for change. I’m no tree-hugger and you won’t see me teaching English to kindergarten kids because the “leverage” on the investment just isn’t enough. I’m a policy analyst/advocate and economist and it made me think about the importance of improvements that could be replicated quickly and effectively. That said, it also made me think about the importance of building relationships and understanding the cultural nuances of the place you operate in. It made me think about what the professional / personal skills that I bring to the field. It made me wonder if I was ready.

And in the transit lounges of the Sydney airport, I felt thankful for people who give a shit and prayed that I would always be one of those people. And I sent out an email to try to make my next trip to Cambodia happen.

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