"With three cups of tea … the first cup you're a stranger, second cup a friend, and the third cup you become family. That doesn't mean you just go around drinking tea, having peace in the world. But what it means is that first we have to build relationships and get to know each other," he said.
And Mortenson has certainly done that. On Tuesday he received the Sitara-i-Pakistan or Star of Pakistan, that country's highest civilian award.
"The way we really need to look at things is not in terms of decades, but in generations. There's a profound impact on just one single child's education. And it's just like a seed that is planted. It doesn't turn into a fruit in a tree until maybe ten or 20 years later," he said.
Twelve years working on the other side of the world has changed Mortenson's view point, he thinks, for the better of mankind.