From Kansas City to Bangkok

Kansas Kelly (left) and Thai Kelly (right). Kelly Iverson

Written by  February 25, 2016

Kelly imagined a rural life in Thailand. Instead, she wound up surrounded by ladyboys and the bustle of city life.

One of the few things I love about Kansas is the mundanity of it. The neighbourhoods that go on for great lengths: a déjà vu pattern of white shutters and contrasting, stark green lawns. The street that doubled as my college town’s nightlife was nothing more than a single road consisting of stumbling persons and dollar drink specials that lured even the most studious and broke students amongst us.

While Kansas has its novelty (we are home to the world’s largest ball of twine, you know), it is a simple life. The complications in which I found myself facing were those I brought on myself. Whether it is tending to relationships, struggling to keep up with my workload or financially righting myself, none of my problems directly coincided with my geography, per se.

Now that I’m teaching in Bangkok, Thailand, my location acts as the harsh dictator over the path my life follows. Never did I think location would be the catalyst of all major changes in my life, yet here I am, adhering to the City of Angels and bowing at the sheer magnitude of it.

What once was the wind filling in the gaps of background noise is now the beeping of cars; a disgruntled commotion of horns. The car accidents that captured my attention in Kansas are nothing more than blurred reds and blues of sirens flickering in Bangkok. Although an indication that a life has most likely been taken by yet another motorbike accident, I cannot dwell on the bodies that mangle the streets or I’d be dwelling for eternity. The pink, Kansas sunsets that kiss the day farewell are similar to the colour of evening in Bangkok. However, the pink sky here is nothing more than the promise of pollution stifling the air; a colour that I have actually grown fond of.

Ladyboys pumped with drugs walk imaginary runways in clubs bigger than any I have ever seen before.

Not all of the stark contrasts between my once-suburban dwelling and my new city residence are grievances, however. The stagnant weekends that promised boredom in Kansas are now filled with things I could have never imagined. Ladyboys pumped with drugs walk imaginary runways in clubs bigger than any I have ever seen before. Monitor lizards sunbathe in Lumpini Park, high-rise buildings acting as a backdrop. (A quick word of advice: don’t get too close to a lizard to take its photo. It will slap you with its three-foot long tail, and it will leave a welt.)

I came to Thailand with the idea that I would be residing in a village with no bars for miles, no Westerner in sight and nothing but a motorbike for transportation. While I still hope to live this way at some point in Thailand, that’s not the hand I was dealt. Instead, I am shuffling my way through Soi Cowboy and commuting via Skytrain. Poverty and wealth blurs into one as I zoom from stop to stop, a constant reminder at the strange and sure madness Bangkok represents.

It is this madness, however, that forces one to truly learn new skills and become more tactful. Never did I think I could master public transportation or travel downtown alone in a city that once sucked the life out of me. When I first arrived in Bangkok, I could do nothing more than teach my required classes only to escape to the safety of my apartment. The pure fear I felt for the city was suffocating. When I think of Kansas City, I all but laugh at the idea that it is even a city at all. In Bangkok’s eyes, Kansas City is nothing more than an appetizer to be consumed before a hearty meal; the back-burner of a city, if there ever was one.

While there are ample opportunities to grow in rural areas of any developing country, I think it’s important to be aware of all the ways in which you can grow in a city bigger than life itself. Maybe coming from a suburban area is the only reason in which I struggled so much in the first place and feel myself growing and loving a lifestyle I never once considered. That being said, those city-goers moving abroad might consider doing the exact opposite.

I am struggling. In the classroom, through conversations and even in the complicated relationships I am slowly forming with people here. The largest hurdle I face is this city, however. You cannot block out its commotion, you cannot ignore its flaws and you cannot hide from all its hidden guilty pleasures that scheme to suck you in and never let you go. Embrace these challenges, but don’t lose yourself.

My original plan was to leave Bangkok after six months to go elsewhere in Thailand, yet here I am, signing away my fate in another contract to stay precisely where I already am. Maybe it’s an adrenaline rush or curiosity that keeps me here, but this original short stint is Thailand seems to be slowly becoming a life sentence—one that I am happily complying with.

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Kelly Iverson

Although Dorothy was quite content, Kansas was no place like home for native Kelly Iverson. After studying abroad, she returned with an itch for travel no amount of scratching could alleviate. She lives in Bangkok, Thailand, where she teaches English.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/KellyJIverson/

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