On Greg From Three Cups of Tea

/ 6 November 2010

This journal is entirely centered on Greg Mortenson as depicted in Three Cups of Tea. For this journal there are three items to cover: What from Greg’s past foreshadowed the work he will come to do in Pakistan, how is Greg like and unlike Kenny from Nectar in a Sieve, and how is Greg like and unlike myself. To assist in dealing with the final two items I need to start out with the first item.

So, to start out with that first item I have to say that among all of Greg’s past experiences two stand out as the two that probably had the most influence on his work in Korphe. The first of these was his childhood in Tanzania. Shortly after birth his parents were sent to Tanzania (but before it became independent) as missionaries. His father, Irvin, consumed himself entirely with the task of raising money for and founding Tanzania’s first teaching hospital. His mother, Jerene, worked with the same intensity on establishing an international school. Greg grew up within the Tanzanian culture and thought of himself as Tanzanian. It was during this time, more specifically when he was six, that he scaled his first serious mountain. How does this experience help explain his Pakistani work? Well, with parents who did nearly identical tasks in Tanzania, and him living in that community, all conditioned Greg for that kind of work. After stumbling upon Korphe he felt obligated to assist these lowly people.

The second of these was his relationship with his littlest sister, Christa. Unlike all her older siblings who quickly grew to their parents’ scale, Christa remained small and delicate. When she was a toddler a smallpox vaccination caused, Jerene believed, the start of her brain dysfunction. At age three she contracted severe meningitis and at age eight started having frequent seizures. Greg became a looming presence over anyone who meant to tease Christa. Years later, after Greg was through college, Christa died while Greg was climbing a mountain. So how does this component of Greg’s past help explain his work in Pakistan? Well, it gave Greg experience in helping those of lesser abilities and also gave him many experiences to tie into his Pakistan work. Christa’s death, incidentally, was also his inspiration for going out on the expedition that led to his finding Korphe in the first place.

Now knowing some of Greg’s character, how does he compare with Kenny? Obviously they’re both doing similar missions for lower communities, but are they equally invested in the work and the people or not? On the highest of levels I’d have to say that Kenny seemed much less connected to his work in India than I already see Greg being with the school project in Korphe. We don’t know that much about Kenny’s past, so a honest comparison is virtually impossible, but it still doesn’t feel as if Kenny was as wholly invested in India as Greg is in Pakistan. They both are helpful to the locals while going about their work, but the very fact that Kenny isn’t liked by everyone seems to lend him less credit than Greg has in Pakistan. We get the sense that Kenny left a family to do his work in India, but in Greg’s case we get the sense that he may actually have Korphe as a sort of family. This is a stark difference between the two of them. Another difference is that India is way more connected and a little richer than Korphe (and Pakistan as a whole) is. Both men are on a similar mission, but have very different attitudes towards their mission and the people it will affect.

Lastly, how is Greg different from me? For one thing, at this point I would not give up a good life such as I have to put myself in the position of both managing and throwing my life into an endeavor such as what Greg did. However, as I’m not against these kinds of acts, I’d be willing to do what I could to help from the comforts of my current lifestyle. Nonetheless, Greg and I do have the understanding that we are far too privileged by nature of being Americans for us to completely ignore communities like Korphe that really could use our help in whatever way we can. By nature of the Gulf Wars we’ve been inadvertently damaging these communities while attacking the “enemy”. Not that any of us have power over the military, but we can try and build up systems to support the lowest of the low communities that are caught in the crossfires of both conflict and poverty. Greg’s mission is one of peace to build up these communities, I’d consider myself someone who’d agree with mission with those purposes. That is one thing that Greg and I have in common.