Summary: Chapter 10: Building Bridges
Mortenson, who has obtained an additional $10,000 from Jean Hoerni to build the bridge to Korphe, is now back in Pakistan. In spite of his earlier experiences with Changazi, Mortenson has hired him to help in obtaining the bridge materials, and he feels appreciative of Changazi’s large network of connections. He learns that Changazi has many sexual relationships, which are sanctioned as “temporary marriages” by some Shiite clerics. When a rockslide stops the trucks carrying the bridge cable to Korphe, the men of the village walk to the site and return carrying the cable. During this time, Mortenson and Haji’s son, Twaha, discuss their personal lives, and Mortenson learns more about the sexual customs in this culture. Although Twaha is not married, he sometimes has sex with widows in the village.
The rainy season starts, and they have to wait before pouring concrete for the bridge, so Twaha proposes that the men of the village mount a hunting trip. They hope to secure an ibex, a large mountain goat that will provide food for the village. Mortenson accompanies them, and the difficult trip increases his appreciation for the resourcefulness of the Balti people. After a week, the men slay an ibex, and Houssein, the most educated man in Korphe, butchers the animal. Mortenson thinks that Houssein would be a good teacher for the school. The bridge construction begins, and as he is supervising the work, Mortenson is pleased to see an American party arrive. One of the men is George McCown, a noted climber and wealthy businessman who is immediately drawn to Mortenson. We learn that he will become an important supporter of Mortenson’s work, and that McCown’s guide, Faisal Baig, will become Mortenson’s bodyguard. As the chapter ends, the bridge is completed.
Summary: Chapter 11: Six Days
Back in California, Mortenson finds work in an emergency room and lives in a very small apartment. But he now feels that he is at least working toward his return to Korphe. Marina wants to reconcile, but he realizes she is not the right woman for him. He contacts Jean Hoerni and travels to Seattle, where the two finally meet in person. Hoerni is enthusiastic about the bridge. George McCown, who is also interested in the project, invites Mortenson to attend an American Himalayan Foundation dinner. The guest speaker will be Mortenson’s hero, famed climber Sir Edmund Hillary. At the dinner, Mortenson is inspired by Hillary’s account of his own efforts to build schools and clinics in Nepal. He is also stunned when Hoerni and McCown offer to support him financially for a year so he can complete the Korphe project. Mortenson is even more excited at meeting Tara Bishop, a psychology graduate student and daughter of a noted National Geographic photographer. The two feel an immediate attraction and spend the evening talking about their lives and interests. Six days later, they marry at the Oakland City Hall, and one of Mortenson’s friends, a cable car driver, takes them on a private tour of San Francisco. Mortenson postpones his return to Korphe for two weeks to spend time with Tara. At the end of the chapter, he boards a plane.
Analysis: Chapter 10 and Chapter 11
Although the plot in Chapter 10 centers on building the Braldu bridge, the narrative largely focuses on developing and introducing characters. Changazi comes across even more strongly as a conniving person who may be helpful at times but generally cannot be trusted. Twaha, who has previously been shown only as Haji’s son and aide, running errands and translating, now emerges as a more fully rounded human being. He confides in Mortenson about his occasional trysts with the village widows and his plans for the future, as well as advising Mortenson on his own love life. Meanwhile, George McCown’s introduction reveals more about the camaraderie among the mountain-climbing community. The American Himalayan Foundation gives Mortenson a birthday card for McCown to be delivered should Mortenson and McCown cross paths. McCown’s arrival in Korphe is also a lucky break for Mortenson. We learn that their meeting will lead to new sources of financial support for Mortenson, and also personal support, as McCown’s guide, Faisal Baig, will become Mortenson’s bodyguard. Mortenson, meanwhile, has largely overcome the problems that brought him to a low point both in terms of his personal life and his project of building the school. In a very short span of time, most of his personal problems have been resolved. He has been transformed from a lonely, intermittently employed nurse to a happily married man whose work is admired and supported.
Chapter 10 furthers the bridge-building theme by showing Mortenson’s deepening connection with the Balti people and their way of life. During his stay in Korphe this time, Mortenson begins to bond with Twaha, and by participating in the ibex hunt, Mortenson increases his understanding of the Balti people’s extremely close relationship with nature. Many things that happen on the hunt reveal new aspects of Balti culture. For example, Mortenson learns about the tomar, which is not only a badge of courage used by the hunters but also a talisman of protection given to Balti babies. The use of talismans and the prayers before the hunt illustrate the more ancient aspects of the Balti culture, including its strong ties with Islam. Mortenson also begins to build a relationship with Sakina, Haji’s wife. Although it is very unusual for Balti men to go into the kitchen, traditionally thought of as the woman’s province, Sakina accepts Mortenson’s occasional visits affectionately. This acceptance is one more sign that he is succeeding in his attempt to gain the villagers’ trust.
In this section, it occurs to Mortenson for the first time that building a school in Korphe might bring problems as well as benefits. As he approaches the village in Chapter 10, he realizes that the bridge—specifically the connection it will create between Korphe and the outside world—may corrupt the purity he appreciates in the villagers and their way of life. Mortenson does not dwell on this thought, but the idea presents new insights for the reader. Korphe represents a kind of Eden. Because the village is so far away from other influences, the people have remained essentially innocent. The isolation and harsh conditions may make life hard there at times, but for the most part, the people live happy, meaningful lives. Mortenson’s school, however, will bring down some of those barriers with the outside world by teaching the students about foreign places and ideas. What the consequences could be remains unclear. The tone of the story, however, strongly suggests that educating the children is worth whatever minor negative repercussions may result.