I wasn’t going to get involved in the whole Three-Cups-of-Tea-Mageddon. (You can find links to 130 and counting blog posts here courtesy of the very excellent Good Intentions Are Not Enough site.) But then I heard from a friend of mine who has a particularly interesting perspective: he’s from South Waziristan.
He said that he had heard of Three Cups of Tea when it was published, but that he had never gotten around to reading it as he was busy with the demands of getting a university education.
When this Mortenson kerfuffle broke and my friend had a chance to read some of the stories about what was wrong with the book, many including excerpts such as those quoted by Aid Watch, he told me he was “shocked” by the portrayal of Waziri men.
He told me about the cultural implications of the saying that the title of the book got its name from, at least from his perspective as a young Waziri man. He said that according to the Wikipedia entry on Three Cups of Tea, the expression comes from a Balti proverb: “The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honoured guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family…”
He told me: “Carol, with full confidence I would like to say that you will have not to wait till the thrid cup when you come in contact with the Waziri tribe… You will become a member of the family on the first cup of tea. Once you come to their home, then your safety and welfare is something sacred to them. Their culture, custom and tradition require them to sacrifice themselves for the welfare of their guest. This is the reason why I am being proud to be a Waziri.”
I asked him if it would be okay for me to share some of his thoughts and some of his words on Usalama, on condition of anonymity, and he said yes. He said it would be “a good thing for people to know what the facts [are]… The outside world looks at us with a specific lens, and we are unable to counter [those perspectives], as we do not have proper exposure.”
He stressed the importance of mentioning in this blog post that “this perspective is from Waziristan.”
I could frame this with my own analysis or try to contextualize, as my friend’s perspective is obviously also informed by his own background—but: 1) I’m not that interested in the Mortenson thing and 2) I’ll leave that to you—the whole point of this post was to provide an anonymous platform with which to present a young Waziri’s thoughts on Three Cups of Tea, not mine.
My friend says he now plans to read the book for sure.