Getting lost with a purpose “I am nothing more than a fellow who took a wrong turn in the mountains and never quite managed to find his way home,” author/activist/ educator Greg Mortenson explains in his new book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan (Viking). Mortenson was attempting to climb the formidable mountain K2 in Pakistan but got lost and ended up in a small village called Korphe, where he encountered a young girl who asked him to build a school for her there. He and the Central Asia Institute, which he co-founded, have since established more than 130 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan— a daunting task, given those countries’ battlescarred atmospheres and the expected financial, cultural, and political challenges an outsider might face.
This book is a follow-up to Mortenson’s popular 2006 book, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time, and it’s a very engaging account of his mostly successful efforts to create hope in environments where destruction and death easily take root. Along the way, he discovers that not everyone places the same value on education that he and his staff do. Still, more often than not, Mortenson and company manage to get their schools built, even if it means dealing with difficult warlords, affable opium dealers, unpredictable freedom fighters, and misogynistic fathers, husbands, and brothers. To Mortenson, education provides an invaluable tool for a community, allowing its members to think for themselves and not fall easy prey to radical thoughts.
Mortenson gives a presentation on his experiences at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, at St. Francis Auditorium at the New Mexico Museum of Art, 107W. Palace Ave. Admission is $50, and that includes a signed first edition of the book. The event, hosted by Garcia Street Books (986-0151), benefits Pennies for Peace, a nonprofit Mortenson founded. The event is sold out, but there may be returns; call the Lensic Performing Arts Center, 988-1234.