Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mortenson builds the first school with the help of the people. 3 cups of T

Greg was in a hurry to complete the school. He felt the progress was too slow with people often missing to take care of their crops and animals. Haji Ali urged him to be patient and respect the ways of the villagers.

When a landslide held up jeeps eighteen miles from Korphe, the whole village including the holy man of Korphe came to help and carried the roof beams to the village. It was the way the conservative mullah showed his support to the school. Not all were like this. The powerful head of Askole arrived one day to stop the work and would go away only he was offered twelve of the best rams as a penalty for allowing a kafir to build a school.

The first school .
There is drama,  Mortenson managed to complete the school and took a picture of it for Jean to see. Jean who was in his last stages died an extremely happy man. Greg, with the creation CAI, initially funded with million dollars by Jean Hoerni, got busy in many projects building schools initially in Pakistan and later in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. (Worth taking a look at the link)

As I thought about Greg and his work across our border, the controversies within the USA about his style of management and accusations of wasteful methods of  using funds, the events became much larger and more complicated and way beyond the scope of my blog.  Raghu had similar thoughts and he asked me 'The pictures were interesting. The caption says Namma ooru, when are you returning? (To Bengaluru!)

I guess it makes sense to end with the first school Greg built with the help of Korphe people. The period was indeed tumultuous due to Taliban and 9/11 and Mortenson had many stressful moments as he continued to build schools. Probably the toughest test was to deal with American Army! There are books to read and many many articles on the Mortenson episode.  I link the one I liked about Korphe school. It feels good read this.

 The school was first built in 1995 but had to be brought down due to its poorly constructed foundation. It was then rebuilt with a stronger foundation and reinforced concrete.
The new road to Korphe. The old pillars are seen.

The girl students. 
What they do? How do they feel? 
Hopefully they are not victims of the new wave of violence 

The blogger Sabina Khan, A Master's graduate in Conflict Resolution from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. concludes her blog with: Throughout my trip in the northern areas of Pakistan, I came across numerous blue CAI boards marking their institutions. I won’t attest to confirming the 250 or so institutions that the Central Asia claims to support, but this one was in fine shape. I know that the kids at this one school now have opportunities that were otherwise beyond their reach before the charity began and the locals backed up every aspect of Three Cups of  Tea that I could remember.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Greg is offered a career, one so right for him. 3 cups of T.

Greg was back home in winter.  With Tara, for the first time in years, he had someone with whom he could discuss the odyssey he'd been on since he set foot in Korphe. Someone who understood his passion for Pakistan. Jean Hoerni was the other who marveled at Mortenson's passion for the people of Karakorum. 

Jean Hoerni invited Greg and his wife for Thanksgiving to Seattle. The spread at the dinner reminded Mortenson about the various banquets he'd been fed at Balistan, during the tug-of war for the school. He spoke about it as Jean was keen to hear and described the ground breaking at the Korphe school, the slaughter of the ram, chogo rabak, and the long night of fire and dancing.

Hoerni said, after dinner, 'Listen! You love what you are doing in the Himalaya and it doesn't sound like you are too bad at it. Why don't you make a career?'  He added that no one in the mountaineering world would be interested in helping the Muslims in the villages. 'They have too many Sherpa and Tibetans, too many Buddhists on their brain. What if I endowed a foundation, and made you a director? You could build a school every year. What do you say?'  Speechless Greg squeezed his wife's hand.

Tara and Greg. Wedding day picture!
There were more changes in their life. In winter Tara got pregnant and her mother who had heard glowing reports of Greg from her mountaineering contacts invited them to visit her at Bozeman, Montana. Greg liked the place and they decided to move to Bozeman. Tara's mother Lila Bishop offered to loan them enough money for a down payment for a small house nearby.

I knew about the independent life style of American kids once they are eighteen, but I still have to get used to the extent of independence they enjoyed! It applies to parents as well!

In his next visit to Pakistan Mortenson has a title, suggested by Hoerni, 'Director, Central Asia Institute.'  From Skardu he sent a message to Mouzafer offering him a wage if he'd come to Korphe and help with the school. He also also visited Ghulam Parvi and laid out his modest plan for the future - finish the Korphe School and build another school somewhere in Balistan the following year - and asked Parvi to be part of it. As authorised by Hoerni, he offered Parvi a small salary to supplement his income as as an accountant. With Makhmal, a skilled mason who Parvi introduced to Mortenson arrived at Korphe on a Friday afternoon.

Mortenson was surprised as he saw a dozen well dressed women, who bowed to him in welcome before they crossed the bridge to visit their families. Now that they could be back the same afternoon, Korphe's women started regular family visits to their families.... The bridge made the women feel whole lot happier and feel less isolated. A small bridge had empowered the women!

Haji Ali, flanked by Twaha and Jahan, welcomed his American son with bear hug and behind him stood his old friend Mouzafer, who smiled shyly.

The story so far is wonderful, it is not only about Mortenson, it is also about Jean Hoerni and equally or more importantly about Haji Ali. A true visionary. 

Mortenson also took initial steps towards creating a nucleus of an organisation.

Mortension with supporters and members of CAI staff in Skardu,
Ghulam Parvi is third from left.