Zebee chats with the real-life Lara Croft of London Sarah Begum. She is a young female solo explorer who has trekked through the Amazon, lived in Venezuela as a reporter and worked as an investigative journalist in Ghana. In true Zebee fashion, we want to show you the inside scoop of her experiences and ask her hard-hitting questions like “Where do you actually go to the toilet in that situation?” and “How was the first night after marrying the Amazon warrior?“
"I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A BIT OF A WILD ANIMAL - IN A GOOD WAY. I THINK MY EXPERIENCE IN THE AMAZON DEFINED THE REST OF MY LIFE."
As a young girl growing up in Kennington, South London, Sarah dreamt of visiting the Amazon she recalls from the age of 9. Fast forward to 21; she became the youngest person to make a debut film in the Amazon jungle, 'Amazon Souls'.
Sarah labels herself as an adventurer, explorer, filmmaker and presenter, but never wants to be just one thing. "An issue I face is that a lot of people try to fit me in one box and pigeonhole me, and label me as one or two things. And it’s difficult, because I’m not just one or two things. If you are passionate then you can smash anything. One week I may be focusing on a journalism project, the second week I could be in the jungle. I lived in Bangladesh when I was little and I was a complete tomboy. I beat all the guys in arm wrestling and played cricket with all the girls – I challenged gender roles - and I still am today." It’s this desire to break the mould, and to defy the constraints of gender norms that have motivated & made Sarah the person she is today.
SO IMAGINE SARAH THE WILD CHILD AGE 21
"I found this indigenous tribe deep in the jungle that I wanted to see, and I made it happen. I produced, directed and presented my first documentary in the Ecuadorian Amazon - and by doing that it was my first adventure, it was the adventure of a lifetime."
THREW INTO THE DEEP END, JUST LIKE A GRADUATE IN A START-UP!!!
"So, I was sitting in the hut and I was helping Rosa, (one of the warrior women) making fish nets, and all of a sudden I heard my name being called from another hut. I walked in and I saw everyone completely naked with a string around their waist, that string is called "comei" - its the traditional clothes for that tribe. And they asked me to take my clothes off and told me to put on my own comei . ‘Now I was conscious of being filmed’ I was also holding on to the western barrier of thinking, crap I’m going to be filmed naked, this is embarrassing, what do I do? Oh shit I didn’t sign up for this & then I married him"
"They were getting really annoyed at me so she pointed at the leaves and said use this - well that’s what I thought she meant, I don’t speak the tribal dialect - so I made a pair of knickers out of leaves and thought this’ll do. She looked at me and laughed then came closer and just took it off. She was trying to say stop being silly this is my culture, respect my culture, we want to initiate you, just trust us and it will be fine. The elder lady just laughed at me, and then she got really angry, she started chasing me around the jungle asking me to take my underwear off."
THE OTHER WOMAN...
This beautiful ceremony was slightly sullied when a few months later Sarah discovered something about her magical experience - Yes, it appears even amazon warriors do not get the idea of being in a faithful relationship (imagine if he had bumble) when Sarah found out he had a similar ceremony with another reporter years earlier Zebee is guessing this makes her Sarah’s tribal wife.
“WELL, I MUST ADMIT I FOUND IT RATHER FUNNY…..SO I LOOKED HER UP AND WE HAD DINNER!!”
This is the way to handle it folks!! Tribal Wives. BBC2 ..... the OG wife
After spending a long time away from any Western civilisation, she recalls the culture shock on her return to England. ‘I got back and had to go straight to an awards ceremony and yeah it was a huge culture shock because although my body was back here, my soul was still in the Amazon.
"Amazon Souls was premiered at the Cannes and Sheffield Doc Fest and screened in many countries it defined the rest of my life. I've been on adventures since. I’m always on a mission whether it's in the atlas mountains native American’s or exploring an indigenous tribe anywhere in the world, Oh and I'm still in touch with my warrior, it's incredible."
"I have Skyped them, yes. I also speak to him on Facebook. ‘ I was in an acting session the other day, and I had a Call from the Amazon warrior, and I was like 'Oh, I’m sorry, it's just my Amazon warrior calling"
"The majority of people can't fathom the idea of somebody from this society, going into the jungle and being made Queen, and hunting with warriors - especially as a woman. Not a lot of people do that... it takes a lot of guts, I have now set up an online vlogging website called the adventure club with Russ Malkin (founder of big earth productions recent work includes prince harry in Africa). This is to empower young adventures and explorers where people can upload their travel videos and ask for advice on an online platform."
SO YOUR BACK IN LONDON NOW - HOW HAS IT BEEN?
"You know that massive roundabout by elephant and castle roundabout the one where most people get lost trying to find the lettered bus stops - well I was on my way to a networking event, red lipstick heels - when some guy, from out of nowhere and dressed in a hi-viz ambulance jacket on a moped stopped in front of me for a second and just looked at me. He grabbed my iPhone out of my hand I was so confused, After a split second it clicked – So I called the police then and reported it. Whilst I was waiting for the police the man disguised as a medic on a motorbike did exactly the same thing to a girl on the other side of the road! The police took my statement and said that usually they can't do anything about this! "
Thanks to Sarah’s Lara Croft mentality and incredible investigative skills + a little bit of tech she logged in to ‘ FIND MY IPHONE’ and joined forces with the local police he was arrested on the spot with 25 other people’s phones.
"I lived in Venezuela, the murder capital of the world, and I survived that place twice, and the thing is, my phone was expected to be stolen from me there but it never was. Out of all the places it could have happened, it happened here at my home, on elephant and castle roundabout."
CLEARLY, SARAH’S HEART IS STILL IN THE AMAZON, AND SHE’S ALMOST READY TO SET OFF FOR HER NEXT TRIP!
"This time I'm going to the Brazilian Amazon Jungle to survive in the wild and hopefully interact with some tribes. I want to live-stream the entire trip. It’s going to be streamed across all my social networks! Sort of like a Lara Croft style game, where I encourage the viewers to help choose where I go and what I do. I'll be posting my thoughts and views and try document a number of plants and species, but I really want the audience to interact with me and ultimately choose the route I take."
Being a solo-female traveller comes with its difficulties, but Sarah has words of wisdom for those seeking their own adventure. "I would tell them to do a lot of research. To be well equipped with local knowledge and have contacts in all the places they go to."
"Then plan the trip accordingly. Find the best people and places to help match your desires for the trip. Safety can be a real concern for solo travellers, especially women. I practice a number of martial arts and feel protected with the knowledge of how to defend myself, were I ever in the situation where somebody was trying to attack or kidnap me."
"It also says a lot about the person, if they make a concerted effort to learn the local language. It shows the locals that you really have an interest in understanding the culture and talking to them sincerely."