Thursday, August 22, 2013

Greg Mortenson sends 580 letters requesting for help to build a school. 3 Cups of T

Greg rented an IBM typewriter from Krishna Copy at a dollar an hour and began typing letters, the first day he sent just six letters! The typewriter was too small for his hands. His recall of those days sums it up! 'I did not know what I was doing! I just kept a list of everyone who seemed powerful or popular or important and typed them a letter. I was thirty-six years old and I didn't even know how to use a computer. That's how clueless I was.' 

One day he found the door of Krishna Copy closed and walked into Lazer Image and asked to rent a typewriter. The owner Kishwar Syed, a Pakistani from a small village advised him to use a computer and when he found out what Mortenson was doing, taught him how to use a computer. 'My village in Pakistan had no school so the importance of what Greg was trying to do was very dear to me.' Syed said 'His cause was so great it was my duty to devote myself to help him.' 

 In all he sent 580 letters. To save money, he did not rent an apartment. Slept in his car, showered in City Rock where he had kept his membership and scrimped on food.  In ER, he befriended a doctor who liked climbing mountains and was an expedition doctor in the American attempt on Pakistan's Gasherbrum II. Doctor Vaughan thought that Greg was competent, calm and fast in an emergency, but sensed that he was just waiting to go back to Pakistan.

Greg also worked with another doctor, Marina, also a climber, who swept him off-balance whenever he saw her. 'I didn't know if I should ask her out, or avoid her so I could think straight.' After two months she ended his agony by asking him out for a date. Marina had two girls from his previous marriage and soon he felt almost as attached to them as he did to their mother.

As he waited for a response to his appeal, and at the urging of his mother, he gave a slide show and spoke about his project at the school his mother was working as a principal. After a month he received a cheque from his mother for $623.45. The children had spontaneously launched a 'Pennies for Pakistan' drive and had collected 62,345 pennies. Mortenson finally felt that his luck was changing!

In the six months since he had written the first letter he had only one response with a cheque for one hundred dollars. The donor was a climber like him and they had the same coach in football at the university. By this time he had received letters from the sixteen foundations he had written rejecting his grant application.

Greg admitted to Vaughan how poorly his fund raising efforts were progressing. Vaughan, who supported the American Himalayan Foundation, wrote to them about Mortenson's K2 effort and his plans to build a school at Korphe and it was published in the AHF's newsletter. In that he had reminded the members about Sir Edmund Hillary's legacy in Nepal in building schools for the impoverished Sherpa communities.

One day Vaughan gave him chit of paper with a name and a telephone number and asked Mortenson to call. The chit said Dr. Jean Hoerni next to a Seattle number. Hoerni apart from being a physicist and an inventor of a type of IC, was a climber. He had a special fondness for Karakoram where he'd gone trekking and had told friends he was struck by the discrepancy between the exquisite mountain scenery and the brutal lives of the Balti porters.

After a very brief and abrupt exchange Mortenson gave him a number! Greg said  'Twelve thousand dollars'.  Hoerni was incredulous and asked 'Is that all? You are not bullshitting?'  but was convinced when Mortneson said he was sure! Soon he received a receipt for the cheque Moerni had sent to AHF  in Mortenson's name with a note, 'Don't screw up. Regards. J.H'  While he waited for the cheque to clear, he sold his books, everything he owned for his plane ticket and his expenses in Pakistan.

He told Marina he was taking this path till he fulfilled his promise he had made to the children of Korphe. When he came back things would be different. He would work full-time, find a real place to live, lead a less haphazard life. Finally he sold his car and carried his duffel bag toward the waiting taxi to take him to the next chapter of his life.

Amazing the way Mortenson's luck holds. He meets Kishwar Syed, a Pakistani who teaches him how to use the computer and thus speeds up his work. But he gets luckier at his work place, where Vaughan a doctor and a climber takes interest in him and is instrumental in locating a donor for him. He also meets a pretty doctor and gets attached to her and her children. But does not give up his promise to the children of Korphe. So far his commitment, almost a childish and innocent belief that he will find money for the project, does not show a person who is out to make a buck. He does not even think of asking the donor, another climber for his ticket and his living expenses!

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