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Products that are hard to find in mainstream shops
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This sounds like a great assignment, Sarah! I think you're looking to provide a new and exciting experience for these students--to get them into a part of town or a type of shop they have never visited before, so they can interact with people whom they might never meet otherwise.
So I'm not sure an "Asian Barbie" is what you're looking for. Any product or toy mass-produced by a multinational corporation seems pretty "mainstream"--even if it's marketed to a minority demographic.
Others have mentioned that novels with lesbian characters are pretty easy to find these days. This is true in many cities, but I don't know much about Mankato (except I think it was where the Ingalls family always took Mary when she went blind or got too sick for Doc Baker to handle). It may depend on the town.
Now, Mexican devotional candles are fun and inexpensive, and they may be available only in specialty shops in your town. If Mankato has shops like that, they can be really great for a non-Latino person on his/her first visit.
Japa beads are used in some Hindu practices; shopping for those is likely to be an experience. If that's too arcane, try nag champa incense.
Send somebody to get something that sounds mysterious and magical, such as dried mugwort (a medicinal herb) or "dragon's blood" ink (which, despite its name, is made entirely from plants)--that should be interesting.
Good luck, and let us know how the assignment goes!
, Salt Lake City, UT, United States
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