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).

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.


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.


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,