Thursday, August 6, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

Working in a luxury resort has many perks, one being that I get to meet and work on celebrities. Unfortunately, we have a very specific protocol to follow which limits the interaction we can have with our clients, putting a significant damper on my ability to find out the most coveted secrets in life, such as who will be leaving the cast of Gray's Anatomy, what new nursing show will emerge, and if Chuck and Blaire will reunite. I am, however, privy to other sources of intrigue, with the plethora of affluent eccentrics I meet, that love to talk about their work.

Sometimes, when the stars align just right, I am blessed with opportunities to work on real genuine earth shakers. People who are special beyond belief, people who are grounded, intelligent, and humble; humanitarians who make the world a better place, people. . . . . like Greg Mortenson.

Greg Mortenson has been promoting education and literacy for children in remote villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan for over 15 years. He speaks at over 125 schools a year, and briefs U.S. Marines on Afghan customs and traditions prior to their deployment. He wrote the number one New York Times best seller, Three Cups of Tea, that chronicles his failed attempt to summit K2, the second highest peak after Everest, that is found in the Himalayan mountain ridge in Pakistan. During his descent, he becomes lost without food or shelter and roaming aimlessly on the verge of starvation. Eventually, he stumbles upon a remote village in Pakistan, where he is nursed back to health and vows to return to build the impoverished town a school. What follows, is the recount of the trials and tribulations of a man determined to spread literacy to a nation bound by thousands of years of tradition and violently skeptical towards Americans.

Three Cups of Tea, is is absolutely amazing and is only surpassed by Greg's inexorable passion for building schools. You can learn more about the book, and Greg, here.

I cannot accurately express how honored I was to be his therapist the day he came into my spa. When I saw the name of my first guest that morning, I thought it peculiar that it was similar to the famous author, but dismissed it as coincidence. All doubt was removed when I went to greet him. Greg (as he insisted I call him) had an enormous frame, unmistakable smile, and although soft spoken, had a commanding presence. I am not easily starstruck, but in this case, I was as giddy as a teenager on a first date.

During the massage, we engaged in some of the most riveting conversation I have ever had. I asked him questions about his adventures, and listened to him talk about his passion and expand upon events in the book. I couldn't believe that I was actually talking to this man, it was so surreal. At times, I felt like a journalist in an exclusive interview. We talked about his family, current projects, and the eminent arrival of his second book. Greg and I also talked about other books we liked, and he told me about meeting Khaled Hosseini, the author of Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns (Both fantastic books by the way).

Unfortunately, the hour went by all too quickly, but I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with such an incredible and inspirational person. He was so humble and respectful, and thanked me profusely for my work. By the time I had escorted Greg back to the relaxation room, I knew that I had experienced one of the most memorable days in my life. It's not everyday that you get an opportunity to meet a modern day Gandhi.