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The Ponds of Kalambayi by Mike Tidwell

The Ponds of Kalambayi (edition 1996)

by Mike Tidwell

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671178,380 (3.86)1
Title:The Ponds of Kalambayi
Authors:Mike Tidwell
Info:The Lyons Press (1996), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:africa, memoir, Congo

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The Ponds of Kalambayi by Mike Tidwell



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Michael Tidwell, a 22-year-old fresh out of college, arrives in Zaire with an unusual mission: to teach men to fish. Inspired by the proverb "give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime," his Peace Corps placement requires him to teach impoverished African farmers the art of fish farming. The obstacles are substantial: the village men have no equipment beyond shovels and wheelbarrows. Each is exhausted by the demands of government mandated cotton farming and the needs of their sprawling families. But the fish farms will bring much-needed income into starving households and bring protein into the diet of malnourished villagers.

The best thing about this book is its candor. Tidwell integrates into this alien African community surprisingly well, but he does not cover up his many cultural faux pas. The lessons he learns about sharing are particularly moving. When his first "client" harvests his fish pond, Tidwell watches in anger and disbelief as the farmer gives more than half his fish to needy relatives. Doesn't this man understand the point of the pond? he wonders. How will people ever rise above poverty if they insist upon giving away the fruits of their labors? But when Tidwell is called stingy by a beggar, one of the most serious insults in the local language, he slowly begins to loosen his hold on material possessions. But, even though much of the book is devoted to Tidwell's growing friendships in the village, he doesn't shy away from chronicling the uglier aspects of his service, including his developing alcohol problem. The final product is a book that minutely charts the rhythms of life in a small collection of African villages. There is nothing journalistic about this work; Tidwell tells us little of Zaire's history and does not use his village as a springboard for analyzing Africa as a whole. That means this isn't a good book for readers who want to learn a lot about the continent, but people who will be satisfied to explore a tiny corner of it great detail will be high satisfied. ( )
  cestovatela | Jun 1, 2008 |
added by doomjesse | editKirkus (Oct 1, 1990)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 155821447X, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:10 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Lovers of fine travel and adventure writing will savor Mike Tidwell’s richly acclaimed narrative of his days as a Peace Corps volunteer. His task was to help people in the remote corners of Zaire raise tilapia in ponds they would dig themselves, with muscle power alone. This book—with a new introduction by the author—is a masterful account of culture clash, generosity of spirit, and true grit. It is a must-read for anyone with aspirations to “change the world.”… (more)

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