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Three Cups of Tea Paper

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Submitted By kmm51193
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A New Perspective on the Islamic Culture
A Balti proverb says, "The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger.
The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family,” this helped originate the title for this novel and is a main message that I believe is presented throughout the book by either direct or indirect means. When I first began reading “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, I had my own personal ideas about the people who practiced Islam and lived in areas of the
Middle East similar to the Balti. I never believed that any story would change the perceptions that had become engraved in my mind since a young age and influenced by the harsh activities such as the attacks of 9/11. “Three Cups of Tea” is a story based on
Mortenson's experiences in the area near K2 and especially the village of Korphe. The story begins with a failed attempt of reaching the summit of the K2 in order to put his sister’s necklace there to honor her death. However,the journey ends up becoming a bigger accomplishment. This story is the telling of one man’s dedication to build schools and help a group of people who struggle with poverty to become better educated, especially girls who are seen to not be allowed to privileges of education. Throughout the novel, there are different times in which the Balti people show fierce yet hospitable actions and within this essay I will fully discuss my reactions to these numerous examples. Also, I will discuss in further detail my own opinions of the rigid views of the Islam faith based onevents such as 9/11 and the Boston Marathon and how opinions again after I read this novel. First, even from the beginning the Balti people show this fierce yet hospitable persona. It is evident that these characteristics are part of their culture. My first example is the first time that Mortenson meets the people of the village of Korphe. The author writes how the women almost instantly go from splitting the fruit to hiding their faces and running for the trees to hide from the strange white man or “Angrezi,” but the author then goes to describe how the children had no such reservations. Instead, Mortenson describes how they took turns holding his hand and were intrigued with the new person. When I read this, my reaction was very surprised. I knew that women in this area of the world tend to shy away from strange men who are not their husbands, but I was unaware and shocked that children would be so loving to a stranger. Before reading this book, I figured that since typically children are very close to their mothers, that they would also run away from a strange man. I think this example shows how while both part of the same culture, the women can be more rigid while the children display kindness to the stranger. Another point in the story in which I was shocked was when Mortenson first meets Haji Ali. After Ali started his relationship with Mortensen by using a Balti word similar to the English version of “What the hell?,” I pictured this family to be rough and uncaring. This is probably due to my interpretation of the phrase in English which tends to be harsh language not typically used to a stranger. However, my expectation is incorrect as instead Mortensen wakes up

with a heavy quilt over him (this is contrary to the thin, scrap blankets the others slept with) and is offered precious sugar in his tea that is extremely sacred to the villagers. Throughout the novel there are numerous more times I faced extreme reactions to the experience’s
Mortenson faced. I think a great example of the fierce yet hospitable persona of the Balti would be when Mortenson is staying in Skardu. The villagers hold a dispute because they too want help in building a school and want Mortenson to use the materials that he is keeping in their village to immediately build the school in Skardu. They try numerous times to persuade him to build the school in Skardu. This group of people also have strong ideas of what type of school he should build as well. I believe this example shows they will be kind to the man by letting him stay in their village, but they are going to try any means possible to get the school built in their village instead and voice their opinions. I think that the idea of bettering themselves but stuck in the past is a main obstacle that Mortenson faces throughout the novel. This first occurs when Haji Mehdi threatens Ali of Kophe by saying it is an infidel to build a school and claims that girls cannot be educated based on the Koran.
Mehdi also takes many items and the wealth from the village. This shows that Mehdi is still stuck in the past believing men and women are not equal. Another example of this is when
Mortenson is issued a Fatwa, a religious indictment, which faults him for educating girls and could potentially force him to be kicked out of the country. This Fatwa in return forces
Mortenson to quickly build three more schools before in order to accomplish his goal of better education. However, Mortenson luckily receives a letter from the religious council of
Shiite and Syed which expresses support for Mortenson's work and consequently voids the
Fatwa.This example sums up the this idea. Originally the issuing of the Fatwa shows that the people of this area are still not willing to change past views allowing women and girls the privilege of education, but finally someone takes a stand to support Mortenson and his goal in improving the education system and the Balti’s wellbeing. In conclusion, I believe that the culture of the Balti people is one that can be both fierce and rigid but also kind and selfless. While this group of people have a reputation of violence and harshness, they also can be helpful to those in need and wanting to better themselves especially through education. As previously mentioned, my views about Islam were rather similar to many
Americans. With events such as the attacks on 9/11 and the recent bombing of the Boston
Marathon just last year, our news stations have been flooded with constant reminders about how rough and violent the Islamic culture is. I do not think that there has been any recent stories betraying this religion to be one full of happy people that are doing activities to benefit others, but instead always full of the negative views. So, as a result I saw Muslims to be portrayed in such a way. I view Muslims to be rough people who seek out violence and revenge on those who have done wrong toward them. I see people who plan attacks on innocent people who have done nothing wrong besides being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I see the faces of people like Bin Laden and Hussein. I see them all to be bad.
I blame these views from both 9/11 and the Boston Marathon incidents because in my eyes that was the reasoning behind both incidents and why the individuals in charge did such things. As bad as it may sound, when anything bad happens in the world dealing with bombings or similar actions, I almost immediately believe it is the wrongdoing of the
Islamic culture. However, since reading “Three Cups of Tea,” my views have greatly changed towards the positive side. I never knew the struggles this group of people faced and that girls did not even have the opportunity to attend school. This is something I definitely take for granted. It makes me feel guilty for the numerous times I have complained about pulling an all nighter in order to ace a test or missed out on a fun activity with friends in order to finish a project. This group doesn’t even have the opportunity to attend school and here I am complaining about it. I also never imagined a group of people who even though were suffering with poverty would help out and outsider and provide warmth and comfort during his time of distress. The cleric Syed Abbas made a remarkable statement when stated “Look into our hearts and see that the great majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people.” I believe this statement is completely true and that this book changed my views to reflect this. While some groups within this region are violent, no one should assume or group together all the people into one stereotype. Not all Muslims are terrorists just like no one can say that all American’s are fat. If we grouped people together in this way based on what one group decided to do, there would be no individuality, originality and we would all be the same. That is what this statement is implying. That even though Americans paint the Muslims to be all terrorists, a majority of them are not. Instead, they are people who are struggling with poverty, do not have the ability for education but yet are good and simple people. After reading this book, I can say that I am more intrigued with learning about this region. I have always been extremely interested in learning about new cultures and experiencing new countries around the world. Who knows, maybe the next country I visit will be in the Middle East?
In conclusion, the Islamic culture has been seen to many around the world with negative views.After reading “Three Cups of Tea,” my eyes were opened to a different side of the people who are raised and living in this area that is seen to grow terrorists. While there are times that the Balti people display rigid views that are stuck in the past, ultimately
I can say that I believe this group of people are simple, giving and kind. They are trying to survive each and every day with the struggles of poverty and the inability for education. This book has shown me that not all people of one culture are the same. Additionally it reminded me not to take any aspect of my life for granted especially my ability to pursue higher education and continue my future as a strong, independent women.

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