Little did she know just how far from the norm those few cups of tea would take her. Mortenson’s visit lasted just over an hour – “He talked about education,” Naseer recalls simply. But Mortenson saw in Naseer impressive drive and intellect – exactly what his nonprofit Central Asia Institute (CAI) has been trying to tap in women in the developing world for 12 years.
He left her $250 to help her finish law school, and he shot off a note to Genevieve Chabot, CAI’s international program manager, asking her to pay Naseer a visit upon her return to Kashmir.
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In “Three Cups of Tea,” Mortenson recounts exhilarating, often perilous stories of his immersion in Pakistani culture as he struggles to build schools for girls in mountain villages. Now, using a scholarship that MSU gave him for the person of his choice, Mortenson has immersed Naseer – who is portrayed in his upcoming second book – in American culture. Along with classes, she’s training to become a CAI liaison in Kashmir.
Getting Naseer here wasn’t easy. It involved negotiations with her traditional uncle, Ilyas Hans Sahib, a father figure to Naseer since her father died in 1984. He’d just arranged a marriage for Naseer and was wary of sending her off to America without a family escort.
Although she was bubbling with excitement at the prospect of being the first woman from her village to visit the US, she had to let him make the decision. “I never tried to talk to my uncle about coming here,” Naseer says.