Friday, September 14, 2018

A Very Wild Adventure In Ikea

Before I get into this story, let me tell you something about myself. I am not a spontaneous person.

Everything I do is very highly deliberated on. Now, this could either be because of my general introversion or the fact that I have Asian parents and am used to the system of 2 to 3 business days needed for permission to do anything in life. Either way, I do NOT do anything on a whim.

This is why this story must be told. A split second decision occurred - and it turned into a very wild adventure featuring myself, a Dutch boy, and a shark in Ikea.

Let's start at the beginning.

Everyone who knows me knows that I love making friends online. I am a bit of a maniac in a way that I constantly, RABIDLY seek people out to befriend. You can search me up on any platform and I'm right there, striking up a conversation on something, complimenting someone, making jokes about a mutual topic of interest, ANYTHING. I never put in any of this energy into my real life, which explains why I have just one IRL friend and about five thousand online ones.

It was this pursuit of friendship that led me to Vincent.


Vincent is from the Netherlands, and he is a world traveler. He meets people through apps and stays/hangs out with them on his various journeys across the Earth. We first got in touch in 2016, when he visited UAE. We met up and had a really nice time browsing bookstores and eating Cinnabon.


Two years later, he decided at the very last minute to take a detour flight to UAE on his way back from one of his many expeditions. We got to meet again! I was so excited. I wanted to do something fun and make the stop worthwhile.

Vincent wasn't really interested in the touristy stuff that Dubai in particular had to offer. In any case, he had done a lot of exploring on his own in his first trip, so he was familiar with all the main attractions of the city. This meant that when we met, the entire day was open to a whole lot of possibilities which didn't involve a hefty entry fee.

I had looked up a boat ride on the Marina as something fun to do. It was essentially an air-conditioned Abra (no, not the Pokemon) that rode around the water for an hour, and looked like this:


The Abra was very spacious and comfortable, and the ride itself was incredibly nice. We took a public one, but since there were no passengers at that particular ride we had the entire boat to ourselves (apart from the boat driver and a random friend he picked up to sit next to him??? which was kind of cute??).

The Abra also provided a stunning view of the architecture around it, specifically the various high-rises (this isn't sarcasm... some buildings on the Marina are actually quite pretty, okay? When they don't look like they're judging my financial status from above, that is).

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-yPMCo28KdTU/W5vg8Wj0OiI/AAAAAAABaP8/YrKSZVDChosG_ebgQqJGtUeDWFDjmOFQACLcBGAs/s1600/judging%2Bbuildings.jpg

Vincent and I talked about a lot of things on that boat trip, and since we were on the water the conversation gravitated to things that were very water-centric. While all I could contribute was the shameful admission of my lack of ability to swim, Vincent had great stories like hitch hiking an actual boat on one of his many travels. I mean... I know my entire existence is inadequate, but there was a comically unfair difference in experiences here.

Eventually, we landed on the topic of sharks, and Vincent's face lit up. He told me that he had a serious goal in life: to purchase a MASSIVE shark toy from Ikea and keep it in his room. I present to you:


The BLAHAJ Shark.

When I looked it up on my phone, I instantly knew why Vincent liked it so much. It was a HUGE, ULTRA SOFT, MENACING-BUT-FREAKING-ADORABLE-LOOKING CUDDLY MONSTER. Who doesn't love something like that?

Upon further inspection, we found something completely unexpected. The Blahaj Shark was a literal meme. Apparently, people have been putting the shark in various positions and scenarios and posting pictures of that on the internet. Here are a few examples from Google Images:


Vincent and I found this hysterical. We literally could not stop laughing about it. He had no idea that the toy he sought was an internet sensation in its own right. He told me that whenever he had been to the Ikea back home in the Netherlands, he always wanted to buy the shark but never ended up doing so.

It was at this moment where my brain stopped working in the way it had been conditioned to work for the past 24 years and produced an idea very uncharacteristic of me.

I told Vincent that we should go to Ikea and find The Blahaj Shark here in Dubai.

He didn't need to be told twice.

We took a taxi ride across the city, practically shivering with anticipation the entire way. Despite me not even knowing of the existence of the Blahaj Shark before that day, I felt like I was about to come into contact with a celebrity. Tons of questions were racing through my head. What would it feel like? How big was it in actuality? And most importantly - did the Ikea in Dubai even have it in stock???

When we reached, we were falling over ourselves in a rush to get to the toys section. If you have any idea what the general layout of Ikea is, you need to pass an insurmountable amount of furniture to make it there.


Navigating through Ikea felt like getting lost in a labyrinth with many titillating distractions at every turn. Vincent and I must have sat on every sofa and bounced on every mattress along the way to our destination.

Finally, after what felt like ages, we saw the array of toys spilling out of display shelves and baskets. And in the midst of them all... lay the glorious Blahaj Shark.

Or should I say, sharks?


There was a basket FULL of them. Vincent and I squealed like we just won some sort of lottery. Without any hesitation, we bolted towards the basket and each grabbed a shark.

THEY. WERE. SO. SOFT.

After standing there and cuddling them like we had found our long lost children (and getting some seriously weird looks from the other shoppers around, mostly because Vincent kept humming the Jaws theme), we knew what we had to do.

WE HAD TO PARTICIPATE IN THE INTERNET MEME OF MAKING THE BLAHAJ SHARK POSE IN DIFFERENT SETTINGS IN IKEA.


In utter glee, we ran across the maze of Ikea and positioned the sharks in every scenario possible. Since Ikea has an insane amount of ready-made 'rooms' and displays around for inspiration, it wasn't tough to find places to take photos of the Blahaj Shark in line with the meme.

We placed the Blahaj Shark in bed with a friend. We gave it a seat at the dinner table. We held it up to pose under the shower. Anything and every idea that we came across, we acted on. The best part was that none of the Ikea employees even batted an eye over our shenanigans. It was like... they were somehow used to people goofing around? I don't know, but shout out to Ikea Dubai employees for being real ones.

And now, for the most important part of this story. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you:

The actual pictures we took with the Blahaj Shark inside Ikea.

Blahaj Shark at work
Blahaj Shark using the toilet (sincerely sorry for invading your privacy!!!)
Blahaj Shark showering (wow we are awful people)
Blahaj Shark getting ready like a beauty guru
''CAN I HAVE SOME FUCKING PRVACY???'' - Blahaj Shark while changing
Time for a Blahaj Shark DINNER DATE!!!!
Success ;)
This was most the most fun outcome from any spontaneous decision I have ever taken in my life. I can't believe my friend's simple stopover in my city led to this epic adventure of seeking out a stuffed shark and participating in the internet meme that had spawned from its existence.

Vincent left UAE for home the very next day. Even though he's gone now, I'm sure he will cherish the memories of us falling over ourselves laughing while trying to hold up a massive stuffed shark and taking pictures of it forever. I know I will!


Now, the only thing that we need to do is actually save that coin to afford a Blahaj Shark each. Those things are expensive. I'll update this post if that ever happens.

See you really soon,

Furree

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The first time I ever said a swear word out loud

I'd like to think I had a liberal upbringing.

I really do.

I was born in the 90s, my parents were in their 20s, life was pretty chill. Never did anyone in my immediate family ever force me to do anything or behave a certain way. Growing up, I had open discussions about a lot of things with my parents - including words and their meanings, especially the stuff I'd heard in school or on TV. Whenever I was confused about anything, I was explained in a PG fashion and sent on my way.

This is why I think all the conservatism of my childhood was literally my own fault. I don't know where I got the ideas that dating boys was wrong, kissing was disgusting, and saying swear words was THE ABSOLUTE SIN, because my parents never told me any of these things. Neither did my grandparents, come to think of it (the only thing I absolutely HAD to do in front of my family was display impeccable table manners). I suppose the process of growing up in Pakistan just twists your moral compass in a way that your childhood is screwed up with half-baked truths and the fear of doing anything wrong.

This means, throughout my childhood, I NEVER swore. Never. Not when I was enraged about losing a very intense game of Name Place Animal Thing, not when I broke my collarbone in three places after falling off a slide... not even when I stubbed my poor defenseless pinky toe on the edge of a wooden table (the worst kind of pain one can ever imagine). I just always had this belief that I would be sinning if I swore.

So, as you can imagine, it must have taken something HUGE to have me swear aloud for the very first time.

It all started in Grade 6. After suffering bullying from the same group of girls from Grade 2 till 5 (now that's a whole other blog post altogether), I was FINALLY put in a new classroom entirely. My new classmates were different from the rest. They spoke kindly to me, they included me in everything, they came over to my house, they appreciated my hobbies. Having been deprived of that kind of camaraderie for years, I was desperate to do anything for their validation and friendship (they never made me feel this way, it was just my own insecurities playing up). So when one of the girls invited me to join their Secret Book Club, I was enthralled.

Now, if you think the Secret Book Club was about reading books, you're wrong.

It was literally a club about ONE book which was TOP SECRET.

Why?

Because all of us had to write our secrets in it.

If you think think is weird and cultish.... I agree. But back then it just seemed like the norm for 10-12 year olds to partake in such activities.


The secret book was a green notebook with white polka dots on it. Pakistanis, please don't hate on my non-patriotic approach - but that's a garish color combination, especially for a piece of stationary. Anyway. Every week, one of us in the 'club' had to write something that was either a juicy piece of gossip or a personal secret, and then pass it on to the other member of the club when the week was up. This happened smoothly for a few months, so there was a fair amount of content in that book.


Looking back, I'm pretty sure the material devolved from our own secrets to just petty gossip about everyone else quick enough. I do feel guilty for engaging in that, but it wasn't anything harmful or vicious. Most of the pages had stuff like 'I think this girl likes that boy' or 'so-and-so only gets good grades because he's the teacher's son' (WHICH WAS TRUE!!!). Despite the shallow nature of the content itself, a lot of us put in loads of effort to make the actual notebook look pretty. Glitter glue, multi-colored pens, pockets made out of fabric - there was some pretty artsy stuff happening in there.

I had possessed the book a few times, and was pretty careful with it every time I had it. I only wrote in it during break/lunch time or a free lesson - I never let any of the students outside of our secret book club know of its existence. I prided myself on being vigilant - but alas, even the best of us make mistakes.

It all happened so fast. It was break time - I had written something in the book, and absentmindedly left it on my desk instead of putting it in my bag. Break ended and the lesson began. We were around 15 minutes into the lesson when I realized that the book was sitting right there on my desk, in all its green-and-white glory.

Accurate representation of what I thought it looked like on my desk.

It was miraculous that no one had spotted it already. In hindsight, what I should have done was brushed it off and waited for the end of the lesson to casually slip it into my bag. But of course, as an eleven year old with no common sense, I did what made the most sense to me at the time.

Within seconds, I:
  • let out an audible gasp which reverberated across the silent classroom
  • yanked the book from the desk in full view of everyone who had turned to look at me after the aforementioned gasp
  • hurriedly attempted to stuff the book in my bag, spilling out all the other contents
All this commotion was enough to attract the teacher's attention. She marched over and snatched the book out of my bag, where it still wasn't quite stuffed in properly.

I imagine it looked pretty much like this to her.

I was horrified. This book was one of the key elements of my friendship with some of the other girls in my class. This book was labored on with so much effort and glue by everyone. This book had eluded everyone's eyes for such a long time. This book..... had EVERYONE'S SECRETS.

And now, a teacher had it in her hand.

To her credit, she didn't mortify me further by opening it up and reading out the contents like other teachers would have done. After she had taken it from my bag, all she did was walk back to her desk and keep it there. It was then I realized that the other girls who were a part of the Secret Book Club were staring at me. For a bunch of eleven year old girls, having a teacher read all their secrets was pretty much the worst thing that could happen. And I was the facilitator of their doom ;(.

An entire week passed, and nothing had happened. I kept expecting a telling-off, a thorough interrogation, or at the very least SOME sort of acknowledgement about the contents of the book. But the teacher seemed to have either forgotten about it or was saving some sort of punishment for me (and the others) for later.

While she didn't say anything, I did receive an earful from my friends. They blamed me for being careless - and rightfully so. I deserved that. They didn't do anything drastic like end the friendship over it, but they were understandably mad. It was the reaction from the other students in the classroom that was both annoying and unprecedented.

Out of the other students was a girl who was the entire package: smart, good-looking and super popular. It's like everyone in school was given a triangle diagram where they could only pick two sides, but she cheated the system and had all three.

CHOOSE 2 LOSE OUT ON THE THIRD

I was always on civil terms with her. But after the incident of the teacher finding out about The Secret Book, that girl completely flipped. Since she wasn't part of the club, she didn't actually know about what was in it - but that didn't stop her from making far-fetched assumptions that everything in the book was somehow about her.

To be specific, this girl thought that:
  • the pages were filled with details about her and a guy she liked, and how they were seeing each other
  • we obsessed over her high grades in every subject
  • we made fun of her straight hair (????)

Not only was she wrong about what we wrote, she was wrong with her entire assumption that we wrote anything about her at all. You see, people who get all three sides of the triangle are automatically immune from any sort of talk about them. It's the law. This is why I got so annoyed. She literally made a huger deal out of the teacher finding out about the book than any of my friends did, because she somehow thought she would be the most impacted by its discovery as opposed to the ACTUAL producers of the damned book.

This girl made my life hell for the entire week. I was already under a lot of pressure from losing the book, having the looming thought of a punishment awaiting, trying to mend the precarious friendship between all the other members of the Secret Book Club... having that girl somehow make all of this about HER was just too much.


I felt like.... I was about to swear.

Now, this thought didn't occur to me at once. It definitely cooked in my brain for the entire week. As I mentioned earlier on in this post, I was highly opposed to swearing. I just thought it was wrong. Before this incident, I couldn't have even fathomed tainting my pristine eleven-year-old tongue by uttering any bad word. But here I stood, so IRRITATED by this one person, I was willing to risk it all.

I carefully planned my move. The next time she would barge up to me with her complaints, I would silence her with a sharp, quick-witted statement and ONE swear word. I spent time deliberating over which word to use for maximum impact. I crafted that sentence with care. I was ready.

Towards the end of the week, my chance finally arrived. The girl was ready to approach me and chide me for all my wrongdoings. She was about to spew her narcissistic rant about how her entire future  was ruined due to some non-existent childish notes about her in some ugly, green book. But I was prepared.

Her: Fareeha, I think-
Me: JUST STOP WITH YOUR BULLSHIT.




Now, that echoed. It literally went ((Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.))

She was stunned into silence. Heck, I was stunned into silence. Even though I hadn't shouted it out, it seemed like everyone had heard it. But the looks I received weren't those of disappointment or disgust. They were of awe. I did it. I SWORE AT THE SMART, POPULAR, GOOD-LOOKING GIRL THAT WOULDN'T SHUT UP! It was my first swear word, and I felt pretty good about it. And it did the job - she never brought up the book again.

A few days later, after the entire incident was almost completely forgotten by all the students, the teacher walked up to me and dropped the book off at my desk without a word. That's it. Everything my friends and I (and that girl) were stressing about was a plain old confiscation. The book didn't even look like it had been rifled through. And that was that. No punishment, no consequence. 

The rest of Grade 6 went pretty smoothly. I didn't ever feel the need to swear again that year, because that one 'bullshit' made a phenomenal impact which left me in an afterglow for months. I don't know if it was because no one got in trouble for the book, or if swearing was a badass move that no one expected from me... OR if it was because everyone was thankful that I shut up the girl's annoying nagging - but yeah, I definitely came out a winner.

I don't know if there's a moral to this story but there definitely is a takeaway of some sort:

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Introducing the internet to my cats

Some things never change, like my penchant of being slightly obsessed with cats.

Ever since I was born, there had always been cats around. Be it random stray ones that hung out around our house daily or the ones we actually 'took in', my family has always had a cat as a pet. The only exception was when my sister was born (for health and safety reasons). We waited till she was old enough to adopt a cat again.  

Or like... two.

Blog readers, friends and whatever family members still decide to stalk me on here, it is my pleasure to introduce you to:


Mikuchi and Princy.

These two are super special because they're our very own 'fill-out-adoption-papers-and-save-them-from-being-euthanized' sorts. They aren't just stray cats that forced themselves on us like the others (LOL).

First, we got Mikuchi.

Her name was actually Ella, and she was around two years old when we adopted her. She was apparently found outside a housing complex in another city, abandoned. Being a full-fledged adult cat, she already had a personality that was pretty set in (according to the people who worked at the pet store, she was really 'reserved').


This is her adoption profile (which for some reason is still up on the pet store's website, LOL). Her profile was one of the first ones I clicked on, and I instantly fell in love. After much convincing - which may or may not have involved tears - my family agreed to visit her. She was reluctant to be picked up and held, which seemed like the end of the world for my mum (her dream was to own a cat that would sit on her lap and purr all day) but I just KNEW that I NEEDED to have her. So much that when we returned home after the visit, my cousin and I planned to go by ourselves and bring her home in an Uber (much to the Uber driver's horror). We succeeded in doing so - and now Mikuchi (who STILL doesn't sit on anyone's lap, sorry mum) has been ours for over a year.

She was so tiny and babyish when we adopted her, despite being a full-fledged adult. After the adoption we gave her SO MUCH FOOD that she is now the hefty giant everyone knows and loves:

Mikuchi's name has a proper origin story behind it. Since my family has always owned cats, we paid homage to our two old favourites, Meena and Kuchi, and mashed up their names to make one to replace 'Ella' (the whitest name for a pet if I ever saw one).

Princy came into our lives a few months after Mikuchi. While Mikuchi seemed really chill at home, my mum was somehow CONVINCED that she needed a friend (this may or may not have been an excuse for her to adopt another cat that would finally sit on her lap). 

We came across an adoption event on Facebook that was apparently held every Friday. We saw Princy listed - this time it was my mum who fell in love and wouldn't hear a single word otherwise. She NEEDED Princy (who, btw, was actually named 'Stardust' - yuck?). So, yet again, I was the one going to the store to make another adoption.

Before reaching the adoption event, I had already informed the organizers that I would be coming to see a specific cat and not to give her to anyone until I reached. They were nice enough to agree, and when I got there I saw Princy for the first time.


Here she is, looking super small and forlorn in a display box.

She looked so freaking.... DAINTY. I mean, look at her. So tiny and cute! I knew that getting her for our home would be a good choice. It's usually advised not to put two adult female cats (or two adult male cats) together due to territorial issues, but Princy looked so non-confrontational that I felt like everything would be okay (spoiler: it indeed was). Speaking to the people who worked at the store, I learned that Princy was also abandoned in another city - most likely after being used for breeding kittens :(. She was so small herself!

After bringing her home, she settled in within two days. She loves being around my little sister, which is such a blessing because we never have to worry about either of them getting hurt. It's been almost a year since we've had her and it's been really great.

Princy's name came into being for the simple reason that she looked like a Princess but actually naming her 'Princess' would be too basic. We initially thought Dusty would be a cute name too, but then it would look like we were throwing shade on her grey fur (which does shed like dust, now that I think about it...), so that idea was scrapped fast. And we REALLY did not want to stick with Stardust. I swear, why are white people allowed to name animals?


In terms of the general public, Princy is a bit more popular... probably because people feel sorry for her. She literally looks like she's about to cry at any given second.

People are kind of right in picking her as the cat they'd prefer to interact with, though. While Mikuchi doesn't really care much for people, Princy is all about attention. She likes to talk a LOT, so she'll meow at anyone and anything that even glances in her direction. She loves being around noise, so she'll happily sleep amidst the chatter of people around her.

Results of an Instagram poll I made.

Out of the two, my personal favourite is Mikuchi. It's probably because I was the only one who wanted her initially (everyone loves her equally now) and I like quiet cats who keep to themselves. I mean, I would never say no to cuddles but having a super chill cat is really the best. Princy is obviously my mum's and sister's favourite, because they love having a needy and noisy cat around...... Lol.

So yeah. I thought it would be nice to make a formal introduction of my cats to the world - just so everyone knows who I'm referencing when I talk about them. To end this post, here's a picture of the cats being Yin and Yang.


No difference spotted.


See you really soon,

Furree