Quotes from Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson

- ‘One evening, [Mortenson] went to bed by a yak dung fire a mountaineer who’d lost his way.’
- ‘                    Why ponder thus the future to foresee
                        and jade thy brain to vain perplexity?
                        Cast off thy care, leave Allah’s plan to him –
                        He formed them all without consulting thee.                   ’
                                    - Omarkhayyam, The Rubaiyat
- ‘ ‘Tell us, if there were one thing we could do for your village, what would it be?’ ‘With all respect, Sahib, you have little to teach us in strength and toughness. And we don’t envy you your restless spirits. Perhaps we are happier than you? But we would like our children to go to school. Of all the things you have, learning is the one we most desire for our children.’               Conversation between Edmund Hillary and Urkien Sherpa,
Schoolhouse in the Clouds
- ‘But it was the supplies he carried in the expedition’s medical hit, along with his training as a trauma nurse, that proved the most valuable. Each day, as he grew stronger, he spent longer hours climbing the steep paths between Korphe’s homes, doing what little he could to beat back the avalanche of need. Everywhere he turned, eyes would implore him from the depths of homes, where elderly Balti had suffered in silence for years. He set broken bones and did what little he could with painkillers and antibiotics. Word of his work spread and the sick on the outskirts of Korphe began sending relatives to fetch ‘Dr. Greg’, as he would thereafter be known in northern Pakistan, no matter how many times he tried to tell people he was just a nurse.’
- ‘To save money while he was trying to raise funds for the school, Mortenson decided not to rent an apartment. He had the storage space. And [his Buick’s] backseat was the size of a couch. Compared to a drafty tent on the Baltoro, it seemed like a reasonably comfortable place to sleep. He kept up his membership at City Rock, as much for access to a shower as for the climbing wall he scaled most days to stay in shape.’
- ‘After conquering Mount Everest with Tenzing Norgay in 1954, Hillary returned often to the Khumu Valley . And he set himself a task that he described as more difficult than summiting the world’s tallest peak – building scholls for the improverished sherpa communities whose porters had made his climb possible.’
- ‘ ‘Prayer is better than sleep.’ from the hazzan, or call to worship.’
- ‘In the immensity of these ranges, at the limit of existence where men may visit but cannot dwell, life has a new importance… but Mountains are not chivalrous; one forgets their violence. Indifferently they lash those who venture among them with snow, rock, wind, cold.’  George Shaller, Stones of Silence
- ‘Norberg-Hodge had come to believe that preserving a traditional way of life in Ladakh – extended families living in harmony with the land – would bring about more happiness than ‘improving’ Ladakhis’ standard of living with unchecked development… [she] continues to argue not only that Western development workers should not blindly impose modern ‘improvements’ on ancient cultures, but that industrialized countries had lessons to learn from people like Ladakhis about building sustainable societies.’
- ‘It may seem absurd to believe that a ‘primitive’ culture in the Himilaya has anything to teach our industrialized society. But our search for a future that works keeps spiraling back to an ancient connection between ourselves and the earth, an interconnectedness that ancient cultures have never abandoned.’ Helena Norberg-Hodge
- ‘ ‘Do you see how beautiful this Koran is?’ Haji Ali asked. ‘Yes.’ ‘I can’t read it,’ he said. ‘I can’t read anything. This is the greatest sadness in my life. I’ll do anything so the children of my village never have to know this feeling. I’ll pay any price so they have the education they deserve.’ ’
- ‘The seeming opposition between life and death is now cut through. Do not thrash or lunge or flee. There is no longer a container or anything to be contained. All is resoled in dazzling measureless freedom.’ From Warrior Song of King Gezar
- ‘Ever since then, with all the schools I’ve built, I’ve remembered Haji Ali’s advice and expanded slowly, from village to village and valley to valley, going where we’d already built relationships, instead of trying to hopscotch to places I had no contacts.’
- ‘I came to respect and depend on the vision of Syed Abbas. He’s the type of religious leader I admire most. He is about compassion in action, not talk. He doesn’t just lock himself up with his books. Syed Abbas believes in making the world a better place.’
- ‘The girls stay home, become leaders in the community, and pass on what they’ve learned. If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care, and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls… If the girls can just get to a fifth-grade level, everything changes.’
- ‘I don’t want to teach Pakistani children to think like Americans. I just want them to have a balanced, nonextremist education. That idea is at the very center of what we do.’
- ‘By building relationships, and getting a community to invest its own land and labor, we can construct and maintain a school for a generation that will educate thousands of children for less than twenty thousand dollars. That’s about half what it would cost the government of Pakistan to build the same school, and one-fifty of what the World Bank would spend on the same project.’
- ‘From his reading, [Mortenson] decided that the two finest rural development programs then running in the world were in the Philippines and Bangladesh.’
- ‘I don’t care where the money comes from. It’s all washed clean in the service of God.’ Mother Teresa
- ‘In times of war, you often hear leaders – Christian, Jewish, and Muslim – saying, ‘God is on our side.’ But that isn’t true. In war, God is on the side of the refugees, widows, orphans.’
- ‘The madrassa system targeted the impoverished students the public system failed. By offering free room and board and building schools in areas where none existed, madrassas provided millions of Pakistan’s parents with their only opportunity to educate their children. ‘I don’t want to give the impression that all Wahabi are bad,’ Mortenson says. ‘Many of their schools are doing good work to help Pakistan’s poor. But some of them seem to exist only to teach militant jihad.’ ’
- ‘The bulk of that oil wealth pouring in from the Gulf is aimed at Pakistan’s most virulent incubator of religious extremism – Wahabi madrassas.’
- ‘Why do Pentagon officials give us numbers on Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives killed in bombing raids but throw their hands in the air when asked about civilian casualties?’
- ‘It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen in my life. Here comes this teenage girl, in the center of a conservative Islamic village, walking into a circle of men, breaking through about sixteen layers of tradition at once: She had graduated from school and was the first educated woman in a valley of three thousand people. She didn’t defer to anyone, sat down right in front of Greg, and handed him the product of the revolutionary skills she’d acquired – a proposal, in English, to better herself, and improve the life of her village.’
- ‘When your heart speaks, take good notes.’ Judith Campbell

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