Study Guide

Three Cups of Tea Gas Station

By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Gas Station

Feeling Gassy

A gas station pops up three pivotal times on Mortenson's journey. When you think about it, we're surprised he didn't have more than three fateful encounters at a gas station—he's traveling all over the country so much, that this man stops for fuel a lot. 

The first time Mortenson goes to a gas station, he walks there with Manzoor the tailor after getting his brand new clothes. Manzoor is going to teach Mortenson to pray, but they have to perform wudu, a "ritual washing" (6.84), before the prayer. In this moment, Mortenson's views of Islam shift. He's previously found it "dehumanizing" (6.86), but seeing everyone come together in a humble gas station changes his mind.

Later, Mortenson meets Syed Abbas Risvi at a different gas station (or as they call it, "petrol") and this man becomes a valuable ally to Mortenson, one who helps convince religious leaders in the area of Mortenson's "wisdom and compassion for the poor" (15.46). Thanks, sir.

Finally, Mortenson has a conversation with a man at a gas station in Afghanistan. This man illustrates the horrors the Taliban is inflicting on the villages of Afghanistan. He says, "I can understand shooting men and bombing buildings. In a time of war these things happen. […] Why did the Taliban have to kill our land?" (23.63). And when he does, he increases Mortenson's urgency to build schools to promote peace and ease the conflict.

So just like Lionel Richie says you're once, twice, three times a lady, the gas station is once, twice, three times a literary symbol. And every time, we're reminded of just how legit Mortenson's presence in the region is.

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