Thursday, September 18, 2008

Unsung Heroes

I just read Three Cups of Tea after having it sit on my shelf all summer; it's a great book. Greg deserves respect and the State Department should rely on experts like him rather than grilling them. Greg's story in many ways represents that of the unsung heroes working for various organizations throughout the world; his can-do attitude reminds me of many amazing people that I've encountered in the developing world. As much as Greg is a Balti, he's an American, and serves a bridge to both cultures. I'll never forget seeing Bruce Olson who was embittered toward the West, perhaps deservedly so. He recounted the story of an American missionary who had volunteered to work with him. This missionary insisted on bringing a heavy radio into the jungle, one, which the people he was "reaching out" to, carried for him without recompense; he had wanted to communicate daily with his wife. Once at the village, one of the Motilones became entranced by the colourful "vines" inside the radio and took them out to make a bracelet. Since the Motilone people never took anything without giving something in return, he stuffed the radio full of the finest jungle vines he could find. After noticing what happened to the radio, the missionary built a door to his hut, something the Motilone people had never seen before. When they realized that it was constructed to keep them out, they moved locations and left him alone in the middle of the jungle.

Greg's humility is a constant throughout the book, and he never hesitates to give credit where it's due, e.g., the laudable reference to Helena Norberg-Hodge. The inclusion of the index could only be superseded by that of a bibliography (for the ease of locating great references such as Matthiessen). As a side-note, National Geographic's recent article on the snow leopard is excellent. In the days of special forces operating in Pakistan, Greg's book is most welcome.

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