Mortenson’s method of building schools in Pakistan was partially birthed out of his lack of money -- he couldn't just show up with a shipment of supplies and an American crew. Instead, he had to raise money, and then he took the little he had back to Pakistan where he relied on locals for know-how, for wisdom, to purchase materials and to supply the labor. It did not go smoothly, but it may well have been the only possible method that would work.
I’ve thought about Greg Mortensen and also Dr. Paul Farmer (Mountains Beyond Mountains) because both men are extraordinary in what they’ve been able to achieve and how they have achieved it. Both left the comforts of life in America to live like the people they work with. For example, Mortensen went hunting for a week over glaciers with a group of Pakistani men and, like them, he brought no mountain gear, not even hiking boots. Farmer lived in Haiti with few possessions and in a hut just like his patients had. Back in the US, they also lived as cheaply as possible. Mortenson slept in his car until he sold it to buy a plane ticket back to Pakistan.
I think their roots may have helped them develop this enormous flexibility. It occurs to me that neither man had what would be considered a "normal" American childhood. Farmer grew up in a bus; Mortensen was a missionary kid in Africa. I'm intruiged because I've read about and met many missionaries who don't even come close to this level of assimilation to their new culture, and they don't get the results, either. Those I've met who live closest to the lifestyle of the people with whom they work and who rely on local people instead of on fellow missionaries are far more successful. (This would be a good topic for somebody's dissertation.)
I can’t praise Mortensen’s work highly enough. I wish his book was required reading for everyone involved in foreign policy because it brings a face to moderate Muslims in Pakistan and a remarkable cultural understanding. "Three Cups of Tea" is exciting, it’s relevant, it’s timely, it’s inspirational. I give it 7 stars out of 5. If you read only one book this year, read this one.