From Asia to Africa: Finally! Updates from my little brother on his environmental science research trip in Inyonga, Tanzania

Travel blogging on behalf of my brother, a young Singaporean scientist, from Asia to Africa

It’s been more than a week since my little brother left for Africa, where he will be living and working for the next 2 months. I finally heard from him since he called last night… He’s alive!

Things are good, he says. He is in a really remote place, so obscure that I would not even be able to imagine what it looks like. “Even more remote than the kampong Mom and Dad used to live in back in the old days.” The electricity is powered by generators, and these generators are usually something that only the rich can afford. So in order for the office (that I report to) to have electricity, someone has to have the money to afford the generator, and someone else has to most importantly – turn it on. They only turn the power on in the evenings on some days – I hope they turn it on tomorrow so I can charge my phone. The battery is running out and I can probably only talk to you for 30 minutes more.”

I cradle the phone beside my ear listening to him and slouch back on the couch I am on, looking around my room. I pick up my iPhone, it is at 5% power, and I plug it into the electric outlet in front of me and turn on my ceiling fan. Almost as lazy as the whirr of my fan, I mumble back to my brother, “Yeah, totally can’t imagine”. We are so lucky in Singapore to have everything we could ever need at our fingertips.

“You sound tired,” I was a bit worried. “Everything alright?” He admits he is tired, he is sleeping in the game reserve and walks 20KM almost every day to set camera traps and collect data. He and some other local Africans are doing this together and the huge plus point is that he gets to see many animals roaming around. “I saw a wild giraffe the other day. It was unbelievable. It was just chilling out.”

They can only cook their food when they set up a fire, which they do at night. Most days he doesn’t get to have any lunch, breakfast is if anything is left over and dinner is made out of wild vegetables and anything else he and the Africans can gather along the way. “I don’t think anyone we know will ever eat what I am eating here everyday.”

The weather is very nice in the day, and gets a bit cold at night. “I’m looking forward to fishing in Zanzibar, before going to Uganda. Then it’s back to London for Uni.”

My brother interrupts our phone conversation as an African man wants to talk to him. I hear him speak some Swahili – very cool! I heard some basic things like habari (hello), samahani (sorry), la asante my friend (no thanks). “What was that about?” I was curious. “Dude, I hope I’m not making them angry. Water is so precious to them and apparently when I do my laundry, I use too much (water). I think they want to help me wash my clothes.”

My brother hates going into the local town, where he sticks out like a sore thumb – All the locals stop to stare at him and he feels like a complete outsider. “I am positive they have never, ever, seen an Asian in their life”. He is much more comfortable when he is in the bush, far away from people, among the animals.

I told him I always knew he was born to be wild.

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If you’d like to see more stuff about my wonderful little brother you can check out some of my other blog posts about him –
My brother the braveheart in Man VS Fish, Australia.
From Asia to the Amazon

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Amazon and South America from a Singaporean perspective… Obviously Amazing

My little brother, the young Singaporean scientist, from Asia to Amazon

*Cue in ringtone, ding ding ding*

It’s 11.40pm on a Singaporean Monday night and I pick my phone up. For a few seconds, the connection sucks (Blackberry to iPhone relationships are always love and hate), but soon enough I hear some noise. A Caribbean flute band plays in the background for a while before a familiar ‘hello’ floats in.

My 22 year old little brother is calling me from South America, where he is for a university research trip across the Amazon river and Honduras jungle. So unimaginably physically far away, but emotionally in my heart every day. He anti-socially deactivated social media connections, I haven’t spoken to him in 4 months, and I did worry like a wreck at times.

I swear he could hear my silent smile, his mood is good and the Caribbean music continually chirps happily. The voice is the same, but accent slightly tainted – English more proper, not so Singaporean anymore.

I guess that is what catching alligators in the Amazon will do to you, or spear fishing with locals in the raging river.

“All that and more, I have so many stories to share with you but not enough time. I saw pelicans today. I’ve made a good friend too, he’s a really cool 30 year old English dude. I didn’t want to leave the Amazon, it’s amazing.”

“We pray for you everyday, it is God’s grace you are still safe and quite alive.” I told him. He told me to send Mom and Dad his greetings, along with a note that he is spending apparently a lot of money on food.

“Tell them sorry I am eating as much as 3 person’s portions per meal!”

The boy needs his energy… I wish I could perk him up with some Zesta – after all, it is the pulse of the Amazon? 🙂

My brother is now in Lima, capital of Peru and one of the busiest coastal port-of-calls in South America.

A little surreal… I get ready to go to bed as he strolls about his 10.40am balmy morning with his new friend, and I chat with him about the poor man’s version of Galapagos Islands that they had just been to.

It’s basically like a slice of the real Galapagos Islands heaven at a fraction of the cost, which whets my brother’s insatiable appetite to see wildlife on the cheap. Galapagos Islands is where Charles Darwin explored in September 1835 and stayed for two months.

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind! Only, my man is but a boy.

“I am happy, but tired from the travel. I got ripped off the other day. No one speaks English here, only Spanish”, he explained. Maybe they communicate with more than words… I hear the Spanish are a passionate people… 😉

Lil brother had to go, his next leg was to Honduras jungle (more updates next time!) and it was about time to bid him goodbye. I can’t describe my happiness and relief with this simple phone call that he has made, just to send me his love on my actual birthday. I don’t know when I’ll see him again for sure, but I hope it will be soon.

And it was time for me to finally say to him, “See you later alligator.”


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I blog for Zesta, and you can read more of mine or other ambassador’s musings about life on our joint blog here.

Photo credit to this site and this site: All photo illustrations of South America are not my own.