Three days from now, I will be flying to Africa.
That’s definitely a sentence I never in a million years imagined I’d ever type. I mean, “three days from now, I will be flying to Des Moines to perform at a KC & the Sunshine Band convention” is a sentence I’ve imagined I’d one day type. “Three days from now, I will be flying to Mexico with my pet chicken Squiggy” is a sentence I’ve imagined I’d type. But never that Africa business. Never ever.
However, the wonderful people at ONE and Heifer International have invited me to join a group of writers and bloggers going to Malawi, Africa for a week. I’m still kind of in shock and hoping they don’t take a closer look at me before I get on the plane. Like, “Oh, wait. You’re the Manilow Cat Lover Wendi Aarons? The Wendi Aarons who just made a federal case out of her blonde highlights not turning out so well? The Wendi Aarons who often gets water and chardonnay confused? Please surrender your ticket immediately, you fool.” Cross your fingers they don’t Google me.
Some of you may remember that I had the privilege of attending the AYA Summit last fall with ONE, and much of what I learned about there will be what we see on the trip. Per the organizers, we’ll be “seeing the continent’s many challenges and success stories, and will learn about a variety of issue areas that play in Africa’s development.” Also, many people have asked me if ONE’s Bono will be going with us. Probably not. I mean, I assume he’s busy with his “band thing,” but you never know. Maybe one day when we’re touring a farm, he’ll pop up in a field of oats wearing his wraparound shades and leather pants and yell, “THE EDGE AND I HAVE ARRIVED! WHO’S READY TO ROCK?!! Wait. I think I need some Immodium.” It could happen.
One of the people going with me on this Africa trip is my Austin friend Meredith Walker who runs Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party. Meredith has a producing background, and that became evident when we were comparing notes last week:
Meredith: “What have you done to prepare for the trip?”
Me: “Well, I ordered some pants that zip off at the knee. What have you done?”
Meredith: “Oh, not much. I’ve read a few books about Malawi, watched some videos, met with local residents from Malawi and I’ve also been teaching myself the Chichewa language in case we get separated from the group.”
Me: “OK, but do you have pants that zip off at the knee?”
Of course I’ve had my vaccinations in preparation for the trip, and they honestly weren’t bad at all. I did opt to not get the rabies shot because I’m not planning on interacting with animals. “Yes,” my friend Mariana said, “but what if they plan on interacting with you?” She has a point. I often carry meat in my pockets.
The other thing I’m a little nervous about, besides the 18 hour flight, is the fact that Malawi is perhaps best known to some as the place where Madonna adopted her son David. Being a blonde of a certain age, I think I could easily be mistaken for her by people who don’t see visitors or blondes of a certain age very often. Of course, once those people notice that my arms are more like bingo wings than yoga muscles, I’ll be in the clear. I just hope I don’t have to sing “Material Girl” to get out of a jam. Maybe Bono will help out.
All that said, I’m beyond excited to learn about Malawi and the wonderful things Heifer and ONE are doing to help their communities. Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter (@wendiaarons) and Instagram (@wendiaarons) where I’ll be trying my best to post updates and pictures during the trip. Once I get back, I’ll for sure let you know what I learned and share a lot of pictures and stories. Not all of them involving my zip off pants, either.
Wish me luck!