I promised myself when I went to write a blog that I would not put a single referance to any "issue" I was dealing with whilst living in Korea. Not a single mention of: kimchi and all the smells that come along with it, poor transportation experiances, language barriers that lead my co-worker to think I am calling her fat, all the "stares" I recieve because I am so unique and majestic. I decided in this particular and very special instance I would break from my vow for a mere second and share with you my pilgrimage to Mecca: a Korean sex toy shop.
This is a true story.
I was in a Target parking lot in Chicago. I conviced my dad I needed one final item that I for certain would not be able to find in Korea, bedsheets was it? Irrelevant. Truth be told I had entire bag of sex toys that I had no idea what to do with. In a perfect world I would have packed them in the bottom of my suitcase never to be seen until arriving in Busan. The thought that any airline personale would come across this bag for any such security measure was so mortifying that I waved goodbye as I dumped my treasure bag into the bin. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu.
It was about 13 hours after arriving to my new apartment in Korea when I decided I was going to find a sex shop in my new hood. I started where everyone on a mission starts...the internet. The entire first year I lived in Korea I refused to pay for the internet as I was already on it enough during work hours and my apartment bills were expensive as is. This means all my research was done at school, on my work computer. I wonder if I was intelligent enough to clean the search history. Probably not. 72 message boards later I was brought to a post from 1999 that said to go to a place located on Texas Street.
For those of you who are unaware of the sketchiness that is Texas Street let me paint you a little picture: Large scary Russian men, old fat Russian prostitutes, "western" style clothes that consist of fake Fubu's and one Eminem shirt...BUT there are lovely Chinese lanterns lining the streets. Mix this together and add a dash of enchantment and you basically have the Korean equivalent of Disney World. I didn't know exactly what I was looking for. In a perfect world I figured I would look in the windows and see a beautiful array of vibrators and ball gags but alas life is not so simple. One hour and two Russian stalkers later I decided to bite the bullet. If you are fishing and you want to find the best place to catch a trout you ask the experienced fishermen. If you are in need of sex toys and other such novelties you ask the prostitute. Her name was something long that ended in -anya, she was in her mid to late 50's and had a plump belly that hung over her skirt that was visible under her red,sheer fishnet shirt.
A Natt Fashion Side-note:
Three words that should never be seen together: red, sheer, fishnet.
She stood outside a hostess bar talking to a woman who I assumed was the madame of the place. Strasuvanya or whatever her name was said she knew of no such place on Texas Street but that I should go to Seomyeon. Located across from Lotte Department store somewhere not on the ground floor, that is the best she could do me. Optimistically I took her wee piece of advice and trekked down to Seomyeon.
A 30 minute bus ride and 8 Outkast songs later I was across from Lotte Department store blindly looking for a sex toy shop not knowing what it is I am even looking for...So I called Busan Help. Busan Help is a lovely tourist help line that will assist you with anything from which bus to take to what the Laker's score is. (And yes, one time my friend did call to find out the Laker's score. They lost. He was angry.)
The conversation went something like this:
Help: "Tourist information line, how can I help you?"
Natt: (Awkward Pause) "Ummm, Hi, I am in Busan, in Seomyeon and...well...I am looking for a store in which I can buy...sex...objects."
Help: (Awkward Pause)
Natt: "You know, like, condoms and stuff."
Help: (Awkward Pause) One moment. (Elevator Music)
Natt: (Dying of embarrassment as Greensleeves plays in the background)
Help: (A tone of seething judgement) "You need to go to the Paris Baguette, 3rd floor." Dial tone.
I now speak with a British accent every time I call Busan Help.
There it was like a beacon of hope in the distance. The symbol for man and woman on the 3rd floor above the pastry shop. I climbed the stairs and at first I didn't know what I had gotten myself into. I would compare it to the waiting room of Hell. It smelled like incense mixed with sweat and catnip. A little yippee ankle biting dog with blue ears barks like thunder and I literally almost fall down the stairs which wouldn't be the first time. Sketchy is the first word that comes to mind. I had to ring a door bell for the owner to let me in. Walking in to the direct left there is a collection of 10 year old Halloween masks, face paint, wands and other costume knick knacks. On the back wall there are vibrators and strap on's shaped like various forms of vegetation: corn on the cob, cucumbers, zucchinis, carrots...egg plants? I am scared. Do I run? The man at the counter is suggesting I buy the egg plant. I am offended. Do I look like a woman who wants a vibrator shaped like an egg plant? Apparently. I am instantly un-offended as this means I am cool enough to handle the egg plant. Maybe it is the most expensive one and that is why he is suggesting it. I choose to believe this is a compliment. On the right hand wall you have your staples: condoms that will fit the average size male, flavored lube, ball gags, cock rings, massage oil, 1970's porn, vibrators that aren't shaped like produce. Most of the stuff looks like it came from the 1980's or earlier. There are sex toys that could be considered vintage and seen on 'Antiques Roadshow.' I pick my poison from the limited selection. The owner shows me how to use my new toys. Not awkward at all. Scrubbed that stuff clean once I got it home. The man offers me female Viagra. I am offended.