Speaking of Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin writes in the introduction:
"One evening, he went to bed by a yak dung fire a mountaineer who'd lost his way, and one morning, by the time he'd shared a pot of butter tea with his hosts and laced up his boots, he'd become a humanitarian who'd found a meaningful path to follow for the rest of his life."
Mortenson had signed on as the medical person for a team ascending K2, one of the world's tallest peaks. After failing to summit and feeling like a failure, he took a wrong turn and got lost – twice - while descending the mountain. He was emaciated and exhausted when he chanced upon the village of Korphe in northern Pakistan. The first person he met was the village chief, Haji Ali, who extended the hospitality of his tribe to this lone traveler. Though members of his team found him, he felt an affinity toward this village and chose to remain in Korphe to recuperate.
He was accepted into the chief's home and got to know the villagers. He was moved by the children, eager to learn, taking their lessons outside and writing in the dirt. There was no school; the Pakistani government cannot meet the educational needs of its children, especially in the remote areas. Mortenson promised to return to Korphe and build them a school.
There is a tradition of climbers taking on humanitarian projects. Sir Edmund Hilary's first was a three-room school in Nepal built in 1961. He went on to built 27 schools, 12 clinics and 2 airfields. But that was for Buddhists. Mortenson was looking to build a school in Muslim Pakistan. As Mortenson's benefactor is reported to have said, "Americans care about Buddhists, not Muslims. This guy's not going to get any help. I'm going to have to make this happen." Jean Hoerni financed Mortenson's school in Korphe, and he financed the bridge to get the school building materials to the village. He also financed to set up the Central Asia Institute, which continues to build more schools under the directorship of Mortenson.
Through this book we see Muslims, rural Pakistani Muslims, as parents trying to do the best for their children, willing to physically build the schools to give the children an education. Mortenson's premise is that by making available schools that provide good basic education, there is a choice over the militaristic, terrorist training camps.
Not many people could endure two or three-month absences from home, not abduction and detention, nor transport in the bed of a pickup truck hidden under a pile of goat carcasses. Mortenson barrels through on conviction and determination. What he asks of us is
this: suggest this book to reading groups, ask your local library to shelve a copy, keep the buzz going, write a review. I can do that!