I had never been to Africa before this trip. Heck, I wasn’t even planning on going to Africa this summer. It was my sisters that had planned their own trip. But when I got called by my oldest sister, Elizabeth, and she asked me to come to Rwanda as well to surprise our other two sisters, Cody and Mary Patton, I took her up on her offer. The next day, I had bought a ticket and packed my bags for a flight that was only a few days later. Talk about impromptu decisions.
So why were all four of us going to Kigali, Rwanda of all places?
That is where Elizabeth runs her non-profit, The Akilah Institute for Women. We had been to her fundraisers in the States and heard her talk about all the great things they’ve accomplished, but none of us had ever visited the campus or seen the students before, so this was a first for all of us. Now, Cody had been planning to visit with family friends since last summer and Mary Patton had purchased a ticket way back in January, but neither of them knew I was now coming.
Even with all my flight delays, it somehow worked out where I got to the hotel without either of them knowing. Cody and her friends were out visiting the genocide museum and Mary Patton hadn’t arrive yet, because unsurprisingly, her flight had been delayed as well. My plan to wait eagerly in the room to surprise her slowly fell apart as jet lag kicked in, and since I had already drawn the curtains to block out the bright midday light, I inevitably passed out in the comfy hotel bed. I woke with a start to the sound of muffled talking in the hall and someone trying to open the hotel room door. Oh no, Mary Patton was about to walk in and I was groggily lazing in bed. That wouldn’t be much of a surprise! Oh great, and the front desk had probably already told her I was in the room since I had forgotten to tell them not to tell her! Frustrated at myself for falling to plan this surprise in advance, I did the only thing I could do and laid back in bed. Somehow, the gods were on my side, because as she dragged her luggage into the room, she looked at the lumpy blanketed figure on the bed and asked, “Cody?” Yes, there was still a chance for surprise. She thought I was my younger sister. Being the amazing actress I am, I gave a sleepy mumble and poke just the tip-top of my head out of the blankets. When she slowly walked over to the end of the bed to greet whom she thought was Cody….SURPRISE!! I popped out of bed.
Of course, seeing the sister you had not expected to see in a completely different continent than the one you thought she was in can be quite a shock. The poor bellhop was so confused as the two of us ran around the room shrieking and hugging.
One sister down, one to go.
Somehow, it all worked out perfectly. Right after surprising Mary Patton, I heard Cody coming down the hall with the family friends she had traveled with. Running out into the hall, I tackled Cody, who didn’t even believe I was me. The four sisters were finally reunited. With Elizabeth running Akilah in Rwanda, Mary Patton working in DC, Cody in high school in Florida, and me at school in Boston, the four of us are rarely together. Definitely makes it difficult to get a Christmas card picture. But now, all four of us are together for a full week!!