Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea Reflection

After a failed attempt to reach the summit of K2 in 1993, climber Greg Mortenson mistakenly stumbles into the remote village Pakistani village of Korphe. While there, after speaking with the local people and realizing they have no way of educating the villagers, Mortenson decides that he will return to Korphe and build a school in Korphe. Mortenson’s wrong turn on K2 leads him to a new path in life. In doing so, he learns a great deal about tolerance and understanding.

Mortenson realizes the incredible importance of education. In the beginning of his mission to build schools, he is in remote regions of Pakistan. Many of these people have had little to no education up to this point. “Terror happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death” (Three Cups of Tea). Through providing the tools to educate these people, Mortenson can change the direction of their lives.

In addition to educating hundreds of citizens of Pakistan, Mortenson himself obtains an education. He begins to understand the culture and customs of the Muslims, Shiites and Sunnis. When September 11 occurs, he tries to help inform the American people of these traditions and the culture through journalists located in Pakistan. He notes that his message is never truly conveyed this way. Despite this, Mortenson understands the importance of tolerance and acceptance as opposed to fear and disdain, especially during times of trouble.

Three Cups of Tea tells an inspiring story. It shows that a one man’s acts of selflessness and tolerance can make a true difference and inspire hundreds of others to do the same.

The World’s Cups of Tea Matter Too

I am thrilled to have Frida as my pen pal. Frida is from and lives in Sweden. I have known her since she was a young high school foreign exchange student living with my family. She is bright, culturally aware and full of spunk.

I shared my “Three Cups of Tea” posting with Frida and she agrees with my opinions. She stressed her agreement about one having to take care of themselves before they can take care of anyone else. Most importantly, she believes this applies to the world over. Frida also expressed that Europeans often say that Americans seem to think they are better and more important then everyone else. She continued, one reason for their opinion is American education. Europeans notice that Americans are terrible at geography and can really only recognize the United States. Not to mention most think Europe was 1 country.

Frida and I agree it is important to help others, but make sure you can take care of your own first. Also, America needs to rid itself of its narcissistic mentality and realize that the world’s cups of tea matter too.

Have Three Cups of Tea at Home

A simplistic synopsis of “Three Cups of Tea” would briefly describe an American by the name of Greg Mortenson, who experiences set-backs in his life like everyone else. What makes him different is how he manages to turn them into positive experiences and overcomes them. Ultimately, through his trials and tribulations he built schools for children in northern Pakistan.

Several notable themes were blaring throughout the book:

1. The significance of education.

He learns the importance and influence of a balanced education, especially for young girls because they have a tendency to stay within the region they learn in and share their education. As for the young boys, his schools provide an alternative educational experience over the traditional and extremist education provided by Wahhabi madrassas. The lesson is simple, education and exposure to diversity are the greatest means to eradicate ignorance.

2. The old Addage: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Mortenson tried to teach “Westerners” ideology and methodology in the schools. This method failed. It was not until he learned and understood the culture he constructed the schools in that allowed for him to make the appropriate adjustments in the curriculum. This experience confirms that unless one knows who one is talking to, how is one to know how to talk?

3. Inspiration.

Without a doubt this story is inspiring. The reader is inundated  with Mortenson’s perseverance  and ability to never give up. Most importantly, the messages to never give up, face each obstacle as a new opportunity and view point runs rampant in this story. Mortenson’s accomplishments are commendable, admirable and exemplifying.

Yet, this story is frustrating and representative of why America is no longer positively received throughout the world and is self-destructing. For example, Mortenson was dedicated to improve the “home” and educational experiences of individuals halfway around the world but the education system and living conditions are very neglected here at his own “home.” The ripple effect of poor education and opportunities are well known to have negative affects on families, crime and the standard of living. Mortenson believes that terrorism flourishes due to poverty, the lack of opportunity and narrow and conservative education. If Americans want to prevent the continuous serge in domestic terrorism, individuals like Mortenson should exercise his belief in his own country. I am of the very strong opinion that if you can not take care of your own, why do you think you can take care of someone else?

America spends trillions of dollars attempting to raise the standard of living in countries she deems oppressed, poor and undemocratic. America does this like a micromanaging “mother” who is convinced she knows what is best for the “child” regardless of what the “child” believes is best for them. The aftereffect of this “busy-body” behavior is resentment, distrust and distain for “her” ways.  This becomes the breeding ground for anti-American sentiment and support spent elsewhere perpetuates oppression and socioeconomic disparity throughout her own land.

This country provides its citizens with a substandard level of education yet, it is a well known fact that education cures ignorance. Ignorance is the foundation of hate, which manifests into hate crimes, discrimination and violence. If America truly wants to make a difference and positively influence the world, she should lead by example. Educate Americans by exposing them to different cultures and ways of life. Teach them that “their way” is not the only “way” and it is not accepted by everyone- Mother doesn’t always know what’s best!

Greg Mortenson accomplished a wonderful feat by providing schools in northern Pakistan, but change starts at home. Change requires a 2-way street and Three Cups of Tea at home.

The Best of America

I think Mary Bono, a U.S. Representive from California sums up the story of Three Cups of Tea the best. Bono says, “Greg Mortenson represents the best of America. He’s my hero. And after you read Three Cups of Tea , he’ll be your hero, too” (Mortenson). The book Three Cups of Tea was unlike any book I have read before, it grabbed my attention from the second I started reading it. The story shows how Mortenson really is a hero, and wouldn’t back down from doing what was right for the children in northern Pakistan. The book motivates the average reader, that you can make an impact on someone’s life that you never imagined you could.

The book got my attention on a personal note when Mortenson mentioned, “he guided her (Christa) through the architecture of his personal cathedral at that time, the storied walls of Yosemite” (Mortenson, 9). My family and I make an annual trip to Yosemite National Park every year and I can see why someone like Mortenson enjoys the wonders of Yosemite. At that moment, I really knew what type of person, Mortenson was and it made me connect with him better as the story developed.

Mortenson was a hiker, he enjoyed being outdoors. He had his sights high when he attempted to climb K2 in Pakistan, which is the world’s second highest mountain. He came short of achieving that goal, but by not accomplishing that goal he conquered so much more. The whole time while reading the book, I kept thinking that this was not a coincidence. Mortenson could have made one turn down the K2 mountain that would had lead him to another village or area. The Northern Pakistan village and the 78 schools he has established are forever grateful that he ended up in their village. Without Mortenson, the 78 schools that he established might never have be here today.

Three Cups of Tea is an inspiring novel that makes the reader think about what they can do for the environment that is around them. I throughly enjoyed reading the book, and I hope to follow up on Mortenson’s accomplishments on a regular basis.

Reflection: Three Cups of Tea

Last semester, I took a class about terrorism. Many of the counter-insurgency tactics we discussed seemed natural. For soldiers to protect and befriend civilians, to change the mind of those in power, and to make it clear that US troops are well-intentioned makes sense—much more so than blindly shooting and bombing. Counter-insurgency tactics target the heart of the issue—anti-American sentiment. More violent strategies only exacerbate tensions.

While reading about Greg Mortenson’s mission in Three Cups of Tea, I traced the same logic that helped me to understand counter-insurgency tactics so easily.  The ultimate key to ending conflict seems to be understanding— of self, of the world, of neighbors, of enemy sects and of enemy countries. For Mortenson, this logic comes naturally. He feels immediate sympathy for children forced to study with no building or teacher, but he also sees hope for an entire region in its wisdom and educated members. “I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them,” he says, recognizing their wisdom and potential.

And because Mortenson recognizes the importance of deep understanding on both his part—of Pakistani cultures and traditions—and on the Pakistani part—of American intentions, of other cultures and of life skills, he is able to make a difference.

First, he is able to identify what must be done. He recognizes that education can engender health, peace and happiness. I agree wholeheartedly with him on this point: education is key. Educated men and women have the capabilities to serve their village, and thus don’t turn to violence. “Terror…” he writes, “happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death.” Changing this changes everything.

Additionally, he understands how to bring about those changes. He knows that knowledge and understanding are important for Pakistan, but he realizes that they are equally important for him if he wishes to help. This, therefore, brings me to the next way to help bring about peace in regions of conflict: cultivate our own understanding.

Don’t blindly send in troops with guns. Send in educated men and women, aware of local customs and culture and able to operate respectfully. They will be most able to identify not only the enemies, but also the allies they are there to protect. Not only will they be more effective—gaining cooperation and completing their mission, but their respectful behavior will slowly but surely transform the negative perceptions that fuel anti-American violence.

Through my career in journalism, I hope to spread this understanding among my people. Mortenson’s actions on behalf of the US remind me of how it feels to be proud of where I’m from. I want to help develop a generation that adds to this pride. I want to help develop a generation that realizes, in Mortenson’s words, “that this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not with bombs.”

Three Cups of Tea

After reading “Three Cups of Tea” my own perspective of how to bring tolerance and understanding in areas marked by

terrorism and conflict are through education.   By providing education into areas marked by terrorism and conflict allows for

the investment of human capital.  Human capital leads to other things that will benefit the people socially, politically, and

economically.   Many people in these regions live in fear of the ruling regimes and are unable to have access to education

because of fear by the dictating regime to lose control in those areas if people become educated and begin to mobilize.

Through education, the people can adopt democratic ideals and a new social and political order could be established.  It will

not be an easy task to bring tolerance and understanding solely through education because many of the radicalized people

who are committing terrorist attacks are hard to persuade into a different mindset.  By slowing incorporating education into

these areas the ideology adopted by the terrorist and the ideology that they try to instill within the population they are trying

to instill fear into can be changed.  It will be an extremely difficult task to help bring this tolerance and understanding into

regions where radical religious extremist exist because they feel they are doing the work of God.


Revenge Not Terrorism

The term terrorism is a fairly new word that has a variety of interpretations.  Terrorism affects everyone in the world; therefore, it is imperative to understand the motives behind terrorism to effectively counter it.  This leads to the discussion of the state’s role to effectively counter terrorism even if it means compromising the nation’s values and notion of civilization.  This essay will analyze the role of counter-terrorism by states as well as evaluating theatrical portrayals of terrorists and acts committed thereof.

Acts of terror are difficult to prepare for and lead to mass devastation and chaos among populations.  Due to the unpredictability and threat to national security these attacks impose, it gives the state the authority and obligation to eliminate these threats in order to maintain national security for its citizens.  In the film, Munich, it illustrates the Israeli government’s support of five men chosen to eliminate the Black September assassins who killed Israeli athletes preparing for the 1972 Olympic Games.  The Israeli intelligent group; Mossad, is the key player in eliminating the Palestinian terrorist leaders suspected in planning the killings of the Israeli athletes.  The undercover Mossad agents hunt these suspects down throughout Europe and Lebanon. This brings in to question whether or not it is ethical for a state to sponsor assassinations in retaliation for terrorist attacks carried out against them. Recently, the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a co-founder of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades part of an Islamist Palestinian militant group called Hamas was said to be sponsored by the Israeli government. He was wanted by the Israeli government for the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers in 1989 and for buying weapons from Iran for use in the Gaza Strip.  This assassination was said to be carried out by Mossad agents holding false passports.

Do the attacks carried out against the Israeli government give justification for Israel to carry out their own attacks against these terror groups? It is imperative to understand that a states’ role is to maintain the welfare and security of its citizens and when terrorist carry out attacks against the state’s population it is the duty of that state to hunt down and eliminate these threats. A nation’s values might have to be compromised in order to complete this objective; however, it should be done in an ethical way that does not lead to genocide or a nuclear holocaust.  Intelligence agencies should be the key players in countering terrorism targeting specific individuals and organizations.

Nevertheless, the primary objective of a terrorist is to get their message across. The influence of media plays an essential role is shaping the minds and perceptions of many people on how they view terrorism and the terrorist who commit these assaults through mediums such as; newspapers, television, social networks, and the internet. However one medium that is somewhat overlooked in how films shape our opinion on terrorism. In her book, Packaging Terrorism, Susan Moeller quotes Rand expert Brian Michael Jenkins, “Terrorism is theatre,” and further states, “Audiences are mesmerized by fear” (Moeller 184). These two quotes do characterize many Americans. Hollywood today creates many movies about terrorism with major box office success such as The Sum of all Fears, based on Tom Clancy’s book with the same title, World Trade Center, a film based off of 9/11, and The kingdom, a film inspired by the bombings at the Riyadh compound and Khobar housing complex in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  These terrorism based films have grossed millions of dollars in box office sales prompting directors to create similar projects because people crave the adrenaline rush they get from suspenseful situations in turn generating large amounts of revenue for the filmmakers.

Theatrical portrayals of terrorist events do educate the audience on specific events that have occurred throughout the world but do not accurately depict the event as it unfolded.  Hollywood has a way of sensationalizing events and recreating them in a way that has a greater emotional connection with their audience; therefore, losing credibility. So although theatrical portrayals to educate the audience it also leaves them fear struck.  The exaggeration of events does instill fear into the viewer and can give a false sense of could happen if such an event would occur again. Hollywood does help spread fear into populations and it has a positive effect for the terrorist because the ultimate objective of a terrorist is to instill fear into a population. Films on terrorism are free publicity for terrorists because at the end of the day their message is being extended which is the primary objective of these networks.

Terrorism is a threat to all people who cherish freedom and the right to live a happy prosperous life.  It is fundamental to the welfare of a state to effectively counter-terrorism even if it means jeopardizing the nation’s values in order to maintain national security. Likewise, it is equally important to understand the theatrical portrayals of terrorism can help foster the motive and objectives behind these terrorist organizations by instilling fear into a population, so it is vital to fully understand the difference between what is real and what is simply Hollywood.

Works Cited

February 19th 2011.Web. <>.

Christine MacDonald, Globe. “Film’s Portrayal of Muslims Troubling to Islamic Groups.” The Boston globe (1998): B.10. Print.

Grey, Tobias. “Film: Radical Chic: Europe’s New Wave of Films about Terrorism.” Wall Street journal.Europe (2009): W.8. Print.

Harrison, James. Hollywood and terrorism (2008)Print.

Susan D. Moeller. Packaging Terrorism: Co-Opting the News for Politics and Profit., 2009. Print.

Vanhala, Helena. Hollywood portrayal of modern international terrorism in blockbuster action-adventure films: From the Iran hostage crisis to September 11, 2001 (2005)Print.

My Pen Pals

I have two pen pals. One is named Linette Ramos. She works as the assistant news editor at a newspaper in Cebu City, the second largest city in the Philippines. Linette also covers city hall meetings.

Here is a conversation we had about the September 11 attacks:

Do you think 9/11 changed the American news media? What about in the Philippines?


I think it’s not just the American media that changed after 9/11, and I guess you can say that it’s all the media in all countries that changed after US was attacked, although it was more evident in American media.

For one, personally I noticed that news magazines and other print media were giving more space and prominence to intelligence reports and correct me if I am wrong, stereotyping seemed to show in some news stories, and some are quick to identify bearded, Arab-looking individuals with ties to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran as terrorist.

In the Philippines, journalists were also on the look out for materials on the JI, Abu Sayyaf and other breakaway groups of the Al Qaeda and were quick to report any threat to peace and order. Media organizations are also more conscious of their journalists’ safety, especially after a prominent and high-caliber broadcast journalist was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf.

On defining terrorism and labeling a person or a group as terrorist:

I would define terrorism as any activity(or ideology) that results in loss of lives or undermines security and safety of the public, and sows fear among the people.

We leave it to the authorities–police, Department of National Defense, Armed Froces–to identify whether a certain group or individual is a terrorist because labeling one as such on our own initiative would definitely invite a lawsuit, right? Usually, they are identified in intelligence reports, and these include the local groups with ties to Al Qaeda.

I have another pen pal since Linette is so busy with her job at the newspaper. My second pen pals name is Emily Flanigan. Emily is a neighbor and good friend of mine. She has been in El Salvador since February 2010 as a member of the Peace Corps. Emily works with citizens of her village to teach them about health and sanitation. She went to NAU and graduated in 2009. She majored in International Relations and Spanish.

Here is a conversation I recently had with her:

What role did Mossad (Israel’s CIA) play? Recently, Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman declined to confirm or deny whether the Mossad was involved in the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhou in Dubai. What do you think the role of the state (whether Israeli, U.S. or any government) to counter terrorism and at what cost to the nation’s values and notion of civilization?

Emily: I think that the state should always approach things in a legal matter. They have the responsibility to the people and other countries to go about things in a diplomatic way, if not they are acting in terrorism as well. In the case of Munich people felt that the violence and actions against the terrorist were justified but if each government took matters into their own hands and didn’t go about things in the correct manner countries would constantly be attacking each other. There would be no notion of civilization since the government would be secretly deciding the will of the people without going through the correct democratic channels. The values of the nation would also go down significantly.

Gordon Friedrichs My Pen Pal

Gordon Friedrichs is a Graduate student from Frankfurt Germany who Studied here at Arizona State University last year.  He was in about three of my classes and that is how we met.

Below is a conversation between us where we talked about how the events of September 11th changed media coverage:

Hey Albert,

sure thing

Where were you when you first heard about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center?

I just came back from school (High school) and turned on the TV. It was around 2pm here in Germany and there first picture I saw was the first tower burning. I thought it was a trailer to a movie or something until I realized I was actually watching the news.

Was it headline news in Germany?

We have 2 public broadcast channels and 4 private and they ALL simultaneously reported live about the events in NYC from the minute on of the first plane crash. They all stopped their regular programme in order to broadcast live from NYC. They interviewed people from the streets, experts, politicians as well as local news reporter in NYC. Additionally, they started later that day some special reports about Al-Qaeda, terrorism as well as fact findings to explain this attack in any sense. Altogether, I think they had a broadcasting marathon of about 16 hours of live reporting. And that was only on 9/11.

What was your initial reaction to the events?

Actually, my first thought was: this will be war. I was still in High School so I did not have an analytical or sober view on American politics like I have today, but the picture that was portrayed in Germany about the Bush administration (hardline, hawkish conservative) led me to thought that this is going to get us into a war scenario. I think pretty much everyone felt shocked and couldn’t believe it. I felt fear though. Fear because I was afraid the US will overreact. We were taught about WWII and the nuclear bombing on Japan and I saw similar pictures in my head. I was also afraid of additional terrorist attacks, not so much in Germany, but maybe other parts in US forcing the country into chaos.

Do you think 9/11 changed the American news media in any way?

That’s an interesting question. As a non-US citizen you might get the impression that the war on terror sharpened the tone on how to protect the country and the world from such a threat. At the same time you might also think that the media uses this topic for their own purpose, namely to promote their ideological principles, whether they are liberal or conservative.

I do teach US-foreign policy here at my University for freshmen and sophomores and I also teach them about the polarization of the media in the USA and their dividedness on pretty much every issue. During my preparation for this class I found out that all of these polarized broadcasts like MSNBC or FOX News were founded in the early to mid 90’s. So long before terrorism could have any polarizing factor on the way news are covered.

So my answer is a yes and a no.

I do think that the media now talks about topics which had been taboo for a long time, therefore creating a different level of readiness among the people for cuts of their rights.

Did it change the news media in your own country?

It did not really change the news media in general, like the kind of presentation or structure. It did change the selection of topics though. Topics that are correlated to terrorism or are an immediate consequence of the war on terror enjoy now a higher sensitivity as well as a higher attention by the media. We almost had a 24/7 news coverage on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and we are always sensitive to new terrorist attacks around the world. Moreover, as soon as there are events happening such as in Tunisia or Egypt right now, the news media considers potential uprising of fundamentalists or terrorist groups.

So all in all, I believe the way international politics is covered in the media changed slightly, drawing the attention and the peoples awareness to the presence of terror in the world.

I hope this gave you some insight on German news coverage.

Feel free to ask me more questions or if I didn’t make myself clear enough on some questions!



What is terrorism?

My Definition of Terrorism

The concept of terrorism is exceedingly difficult to define. Author Gerald Seymour first said in his book Harry’s Game that, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”.  Each individual may view terrorism in a different light. Because of this, there is currently no universal definition of terrorism. However in recent years, it has become increasingly more important to form a definition of terrorism, especially while working in the media.

The word terror dates back to the French Revolution. “A terrorist was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin who ruled France during la Terruer” (Moeller 20). Terrorism has clearly become much broader in the years since its origination. Since the concept was first birthed in France it has been used for separatist, nationalistic, political and religious ends, etc.

In the book “Packaging Terrorism”, author Susan Moeller states that, “the goal of terrorism is to send a message, not to defeat the enemy”. I think this is an incredibly important concept when one is trying to define terrorism. The goal of terrorism is more about inspiring fear. Terrorists do not generally target high-up government officials, but innocent civilians like those killed in September 11. When an act of terrorism is committed, the effect spreads beyond the victim. When members of Black September killed the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, there were 11 victims of the attack. Black September’s target, however, was greater than just the Israeli athletes. They inflicted a worldwide terror. When defining terrorism, one must realize that the message is often the goal of the attack.

The U.S. Department of State defines terrorism as, “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological”. Whereas the Belgium Red Cross says that terrorism is committed “for the purpose of intimidating the population, forcing a third party to act or destablishing or destroying the fundamental structures of a country or of an international organization”. Both of these definitions highlight some of the important aspects of terrorism. It is an act that sends a message, often for political and religious reasons.

Works Cited

Fedi, Namuezi, Laurelia Nootens, Vincent Vandendriessche, and Frederic Casier. Terrorism? Belgian Red Cross. Print.

Moeller, Susan D. Packaging Terrorism: Co-opting the News for Politics and Profit. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print.\

Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. U.S. Department of State. Web. <>.

Seymour, Gerald. Harry’s Game. N.Y.: Random House, 1975. Print.

Return top

Terrorism and the Press

This blog is an integral part of a special section of Honors 394 Spring 2010, Arizona State University. Rather than a routine history course this dynamic, interactive seminar explores the interplay between terrorism and television, and other media sources on-line and in print. 26 students and their global pen pals comprise the bloggers. We welcome all to share their opinions, pertinent observations, insights, comments, feedback. Please post in a responsible manner.