Sunday, January 9, 2011


It’s been a week since my last post, and I just finished Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The book chronicles Greg Mortenson’s mission to build schools in Pakistan and Central Asia, especially for girls, in order to promote peace and combat terror of radical islamic sects. There were a number of things that struck me about the book, but the word inshallah, the title of this post, was perhaps the most striking. Loosely translated from arabic as “God willing” the word is woven throughout the book and is representative of both the high regard Mortenson holds for Islam, as well his own unassuming nature. Following a failed attempt to climb K2, Mortenson allows his own goals to be transformed as he spotted the needs around him. He never assumes that he will be able to accomplish his goals easily, but prays that, inshallah, his promises will come to fruition. For someone who is fond of planning, list-making, and over-scheduling, I need to tap into this idea more often.
If Mortenson hadn’t taken this God willing attitude towards his education projects in Central Asia, he wouldn’t have gotten very far. Early in the book, Mortenson shows up in Korphe, a rural village in the Karakoram Valley, planning to build the school he’d been working months to raise the funds for. However upon arrival, he was told by the village elders that he could not build a school until he built a bridge, because it would be impossible to bring up all the supplies without it. I can imagine that it was a humbling experience, to come into this remote village expecting to change the world and realize that the people living there really needed something else first. It’s easy to think that because we’ve planned out our lives, they can’t be changed, but Mortenson’s story shows that reality is quite the contrary. Sometimes, you have to build a bridge before you can build a school.  
“May you always see the dignity in others. Love, Granny,” says the inscription on the inside of the book I’ve borrowed for the week. Though simple, this sentiment resonated with me throughout the week, even when I wasn’t reading. Greg Mortenson and everyone else who supports the Central Asia Institute have been able to recognize that, regardless of geography, nationality, race, gender, and religion, there is dignity in everyone, and that those less fortunate deserve our attention, our care, and our compassion. It is so encouraging that heroes like Mortenson are out in the world doing good work, and I hope that I could have an ounce of the compassion and determination that he possesses. Inshallah. 
Some details I’ve knocked out about my challenge: I’ve decided that I’ll do my weeks Monday to Monday, so that with each new school week or work week (wow, I’m getting old) I start a new book. I feel that starting a new book each Monday will be refreshing, because as much as I love schedule and routine, routine can certainly get dry and monotonous. Hopefully I’ll be posting more than once a week, but if nothing else I’ll post Sunday night, reflecting on each passing and coming book. I’ve also decided that I’ll be taking someone’s wise advice to alternate between fiction and non-fiction. Although I love the captivating nature of good novel, I often pick non-fiction reads. Alternating week to week should provide a nice balance and keep me from getting bogged down by one genre or another. 
Next week’s read: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. This book’s been sitting on my shelf for ages, and I’m sure I’ve brought it back and forth to school or on other trips at least three times. But this week’s the week!


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  2. (sorry about that "sis1010" thing, it wouldn't let me list my name as "emma" unless i changed my was confused with the semesterinspain blog i started...haha.)

    Julia I love this book (and I love that you're doing this 1book1week thing. So cool!). In morocco "inshallah" was always the phrase we heard with people we met... e.g. Hopefully we'll meet again some day, Inshallah. :)

    I hope that many read this book so they can see what much of the islamic world is like-- NOT a majority of extremists, but many humble, hard-working, giving people, who have great dignity and deserve our love and compassion just as do our Christian brothers and sisters.


    P.S. YOU SHOULD READ THE LIFE OF PI. please!!! you won't regret it! I think Zachmo and Ryan would support this suggestion too :)