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A KENYAN TRAVELLER

TO SURPRISE OR NOT TO SURPRISE?

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With the official season of love upon us, Morris Kiruga is faced with the quandary that anyone planning a surprise romantic getaway for their partner might encounter: to surprise or not to surprise? here are we going Morris, and are we coming back today?” she asked. Although I knew the answers to both questions, I just smiled and kept my eyes

on the road. We were just a few kilometers past Naivasha. Our destination, as would soon become clear, was a hotel right by Lake Elementaita. It was two weeks before Valentine’s Day and the visit was equal parts for work and pleasure, but she didn’t know that. In my haste to plan this surprise, I’d forgotten a basic rule of surprise getaways. The truth is, I should be the last person to be trusted with surprises. I am not good at planning them. In my overzealous pursuit for the perfect reaction, I sometimes forget basic details that ruin the whole thing. That is exactly what was happening when these questions were asked, but I would only understand that later. An hour later, as we checked into the hotel, I told her we were booked for two nights. You should have seen the look on her face! At first, I thought she was pleasantly surprised but her next question stopped me right in my tracks. “What exactly do you expect me to wear for two whole days?” In my haste to get this done, I’d only told her I wanted to take her somewhere. I was

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however vague on the details and hadn’t stopped to think, until it was too late, that a weekend away needed more mental preparation and details than I’d offered. Instead, I’d grabbed my overnight bag and driven to pick her up. The displeasure with my oversight dissipated as we had breakfast by the lake and then went exploring on horseback. She’d traded her jumpsuit for my sweatpants but every few hours, she’d remember she had no clothes and glare at me. We were however having too much fun to make the drive to Nakuru for a change of clothes, so we ended up living off my overnight bag. December is generally the only month when you’re allowed to play such games on fellow adults. It is said to be the month when you leave the house to buy food and unexpectedly end up in Naivasha. Three days later and you don’t even know whose clothes you are wearing anymore. Any other month and such randomness is to be frowned upon. I went on a trip to Sagana late last year where I only learnt of the destination when I hopped into the van that morning. It ended up being one of the most exhilarating weekend getaways I’ve ever had. The only reason I didn’t bother to ask where we were going beforehand was that the invite had been from my travel buddies. I knew them well enough to carry at least one change of

clothes and enough energy to last an entire weekend. Reminiscing on this was my weak attempt at understanding how my date must have felt when she realized I’d planned a weekend getaway but not given her the details. I’m awkward with being the subject of surprises because I overthink everything. The first time someone held a surprise party for me, I was so unnerved that I didn’t know what to do with my face and hands. Then, to make it worse, my friends tossed me into a pool. My phone was still in my pocket but it survived the dip by the sheer utility of dry rice. Then I could tackle my next problem, which is that I didn’t have clothes to change into. I was going to be that guy with wet pants in a matatu on a dry June evening. That was years ago, and on this weekend getaway, I should have known better than to overlook a detail as crucial as a change of clothes. It’s however more than just being about clothes. It’s also about what surprises mean to different people. Some of us are over-planners and would want the chance to decide whether to pack all our clothes for just one night away. A few of us are children of randomness, ready to travel at a moment’s notice and sweat the details later. What kind are you? Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at owaahh.com

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