One thing is was really looking forward to after college was reading books again. I used to plow though 2 or 3 books a week in middle and elementary school. Once I hit college though, I felt what time I usually had to read fun books was taken up with mostly dry and lengthy textbooks. If I was able to read a book for fun, it often took me several months to finish.
So I happened to grab this book at a book sale to help raise money for a new edition to our town library. I had heard of the book several years ago, and decided to get. And although my devouring of books has been greatly retarded from my lack of reading (it took me three weeks to read this), I greatly enjoyed reading this book. Not only was it a great story, but I really found myself connecting with Greg’s struggles to make change. Not only is he from Montana, but his journey and my journey on making a difference has been very similar.
For those who don’t know the story, this book chronicles as Greg gets lost on a mountain expedition on K2 in the Karakoram range between China and Balistan. He is nursed back to health by a very poor village. As he’s recovering he notices the children studying outside in the cold. He is told that many villages in the area, are too poor to afford to build a school, and the Pakistani government had not followed through on it’s promise to build schools even in the most remote parts of the country. To repay the village’s kindness, he decides to build a school for them. A good portion of the book describes Greg’s various failures in trying to raise enough money to build this one school. He sells his car, and his condo and move into the cheapest motel he can find. He sells his extra belongings, and saves every penny he can to build a school. He contacts politician’s, movie actors, and scientists, and other famous people to try to raise donations. He sends out over 500 letters in the hopes of raising money to build this school. He receives a check for 100 dollars.
In some ways this story is very similar to my experience as a VISTA. Sam (my partner in crime) and I spent the better part of 2 months calling important people, speaking at various community groups, placing radio ads, and putting up posters around the county. People seemed receptive to what we were doing, but when our first meeting came around, we had 8 people total show up to our three meetings. One of whom was our VISTA leader.
I’m learning fast that change is not quick. In fact it takes repeated head-against-the-wall bashing before you start to see any “progress”. Even now, almost 4 months into my service project, I feel I’m juuuusssttt starting to get community interest.
So while not trying to make this a book review, I would recommend this book. Although sadly Greg and the non profit he created The Central Asia Institute has had some negative comments as of late, I found this book to be inspiring, and a good look at an area of the county I don’t know much about.