As a Peace Corp volunteer, Mr. Tidwell spent two years in the grasslands of south central Zaire trying to teach the benefits of fish farming in some of the poorest villages on the continent. His task was not easy. One villager was convinced that fish would stock the ponds naturally, since they come to earth in raindrops. Others suspected that the ponds were just another way for whites to exploit black labor. When he finally made headway, the fish farmers gave away nearly half their harvest to relatives, and Tidwell learned one of many powerful lessons: tradition takes precedence over profits. While the tragic poverty and disease faced by the villagers was daunting, Tidwell found that their adherence to heritage and their celebration of tiny triumphs and daily satisfactions revealed a life richer than he had ever known.
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From Publishers Weekly
In 1985, Tidwell joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to teach villagers to build ponds and raise fish in a remote tribal kingdom, Kalambayi, in central Zaire. How he gradually altered his Western notions of privacy and propriety and learned to live in the local culture is the lighter side of a riveting story. During his two-year stint, Tidwell attended nearly 200 funerals, three-quarters of them for children. His "people" were desperately poor, malnourished and without medical care. They were generous; at the first fish harvest, the owner gave half his cash crop to friends and relatives. Under Tidwell's tutelage, farmers built more than 100 ponds; they sent two metric tons of fresh fish to village markets in one year, yet the proceeds were not enough to deliver them from poverty. Climate, parasitic diseases, physical exhaustion and depression took their tolls on Tidwell; he turned to alcohol. This is a stirring account of his experiences.
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