This is the first of probably many posts pertaining to books I’ve read or want to read. I’ve always been the person to suggest titles and authors to people who complain (or don’t, for that matter) that they’ve nothing to read. So I figured I’d tell ya’ll what I was reading, and review it! So many of my friends and family are book nuts, which I have to say, is epic. You always have something to talk about (or, in some cases, fill the awkward silences). So here’s my first review!
First off, can I just say that Greg Mortenson is my hero?? We’ll get to that in a bit though.
Stones into Schools is the sequel to Greg Mortenson’s #1 bestseller Three Cups of Tea. Both are definitely much more than your average book club books. Three Cups of Tea chronicles the events that are spurred by Mortenson’s failure to climb one of the highest mountains in the world, K2, which straddles the Chinese and Pakistani border. It is the second tallest mountain in the world (Mt. Everest being the first, obviously) at 28,251 feet. One out of every four people die trying to reach the summit. But that’s not what the story is about… it is merely where it begins.
Mortenson, on his K2 descent, becomes ill and stumbles into the village of Korphe, located in wilderness of Pakistan. After being nursed back to health by members of the village, he drinks the symbolic three cups of tea. The first cup of tea you are a stranger; the second, a friend; and the third cup you are family. Mortenson makes a promise to build Korphe a school, one that will be especially for girls.
Stones into Schools picks up where Three Cups of Tea leaves off: schools have been built throughout Pakistan, a non-combatant way to fight terrorism. The Central Asia Institute (CAI) founded by Mortenson is strong in the US. Support has been won by Pakistani people. Attention has been gathered.
In 1999, a band of horseman approach Mortenson and his companion on the road, asking that Mortenson build a school in the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan – unforgiving land in the heart of Taliban country. But the CAI could not immediately build a school in the roughest area of Afghanistan, schools had to be built slowly, reaching further and further into the country. This is the story that Stones into Schools tells.
The mission to educate and promote literacy in girls makes sense. The world has a million statistics to show that young women who are literate and educated have the unique ability to empower and strengthen communities. They become teachers and doctors, returning to their villages to repay the efforts put into their education. Strong communities repel the efforts of those who would seek to destroy others. Education promotes peace. School by school, throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, Greg Mortenson and his companions and supporters worldwide, create peace and provide hope.
Stones into Schools is both heartbreaking and joyous in its telling. Mortenson paints a vibrant picture of the Afghani people, highlighting both their struggles and their triumphs. Among the picture he paints, there are portraits of men and women who pour their hearts and souls into building schools. Different tribesman, different religious views, different backgrounds all disappear with the goal in sight. Readers follow Mortenson and his raggle-taggle band of humanitarians as they fight to build schools, and thus, build hope for a forsaken people in a war-torn nation. The biggest heartbreak in Stones into Schools is perhaps what the Afghanis call the qayamat (“the Apocalypse”) – the October 2005 earthquake that devastated the region. The official death toll in Pakistan was 79,000 people, and few know how many others were unaccounted for. Yet, CAI’s work did not relent.
I think what makes Stones into Schools one of my favorite pieces of literature is the fact that it guides the spotlight to humanity in a region that desperately needs that beautiful compassion and empathy. The story of Greg Mortenson – and perhaps more than Mortenson as a singular person – is merely one example of what makes the world a beautifully wonderful place to exist in. Despite hardships and the weary dust of life’s trouble, there are miraculous things going on throughout the world that everyone should be aware of. Reading first Three Cups of Tea, and then Stones into Schools is like tossing a pebble into a still pond. Once it hits the surface of the water, you can’t stop the ripples. The same is true of the Korphe school – the one stone tossed into still water, causing ripples that won’t stop until they reach the banks – the works will not top until the 120 million children throughout the world who are without a proper education have that unparalelled blessing.