Our bus trip to Roi Et in August 1980 took eight hours but cost us only 76 baht (about US$3). There was, needless to say, no air-conditioning, and the seats were crammed in, suitable for Thai sized persons, but not for me; my diary notes simply that it was “very uncomfortable.” Perhaps these things are easier to deal with when you are 17.
We arrived at 5.30 am, and went straight to Sharon’s house, bathing off the bus sweat and then collapsing, all four of us, for a few hours. We – two American girls and two Kiwi girls – spent the rest of the day just hanging out in this small town in the northeast of Thailand. Later, after school finished, another American AFS student joined us, and we went out to eat ice-cream together, finding a real joy in simply being together, talking, laughing, being kids, without the ever-present pressure to be the polite, interested or engaged exchange student, to make an effort to speak Thai, to always be happy, to represent our countries.
A few afternoons later, after we had returned from our overnight trip to the neighbouring town of Kalasin to celebrate another AFSer’s birthday, Sharon put on her James Taylor tape and we collapsed again on her bed. Now, whenever I hear “You’ve got a friend” or “Fire and Rain,” I think of that trip, and remember Sharon B, Sharon M, Nicki (no longer with us), Peter and Rusty, and I smile.