St. Lucia sunset St. Lucia Jaye...

MY BEST SHOT

February 13, 2000

MY BEST SHOT

St. Lucia sunset St. Lucia

Jaye Dansicker,

Sparks, Md. "We had finally collapsed onto beach chairs, beers in hand, after an exciting first day exploring St. Lucia. As the sun was sinking into the watery horizon, this glorious scene was developing before my eyes, and I waited until I felt the timing was right to get this shot. It was taken with the camera my husband had just given me as a birthday present."

A MEMORABLE PLACE

An American in Vietnam

By Lisa Board

The dirt blowing off the road and through the bus windows cakes my skin. The bus is filled with about 40 tourists from all over. I am the only American on the outing, which makes me a bit self-conscious. I suspect the other tourists are turning sideways glances in my direction to witness an American's reaction to the tour. The Vietnamese guide triggers a booby trap while saying something like, "And this is how we killed the Americans." Solid ground falls in and poisoned spikes appear out of nowhere. I'm startled by the guide's words, but I wasn't frightened. And during a month in Vietnam, I never felt threatened or singled out for my Americanness, even when I traveled alone.

I was born the year the war ended, just as the majority of Vietnamese in Vietnam today were born after the war. More shocking to me than the traps, battlefields, hidden bunkers, jungle terrain and the sweltering heat were some of the photo captions displayed at various war museums. A caption below American soldiers pictured with Vietnamese prisoners might read, "American foreign invader smiles happily over tortured citizen of Vietnam."

The government presents the war as a war against America, the foreign invader. Because history is an interpretation, I was not surprised to find it laced with opinion. Of the explanations I could read, there was no mention of Vietnam's internal divide between North and South or the idea that America intervened on the South's behalf.

A visit to Vietnam decades after America's exit awakens an entirely new and exciting perspective on the country. Walking down the city streets of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) on a Friday night, I passed through posh shopping districts and walkways bustling with strolling couples. In the same blocks, small children grabbed at my waist begging for change. To experience Vietnam is to become torn and pulled by a constant barrage of extremes -- extreme poverty and destruction, extreme wealth and growth. I'm often asked what it was like to be an American in Vietnam. Outside of an anti-American reading of the war, there was nothing anti-American about my experience. As I traveled on to other countries in Southeast Asia, I thought back to Vietnam and began to look forward to visiting there again.

Lisa Board lives in Ellicot City

READERS RESPOND

Where is your favorite place to snorkel or scuba dive?

Cairns, Australia

Laura Goodrich

Millersville

"I would have to say, despite being six months' pregnant, the best snorkeling was in Cairns, Australia, at the Great Barrier Reef. My husband chose scuba diving and I did the snorkeling, and both were breathtaking experiences. The colors of the fish, the numerous schools to see and the variety was unbelievable."

Florida

Don and Phyllis Crawford

Baltimore

"My wife and I have snorkeled in Hawaii, Mexico and about 20 miles east of Key West, Fla., over a coral reef. We found the Florida coral reef to have the most beautiful scenery and the most beautiful and plentiful fish."

Lanai, Hawaii

Gloria Adamski

Timonium

"While on Maui, my daughter and I took a catamaran to Lanai. We sailed to one of the top snorkeling sites in the world. As I sunned on a beautiful beach, Karen snorkeled. She was surrounded by many different-colored fish. It was a perfect day. This adventure to Lanai is a Maui must."

Our next question:

Where is the best place to get engaged, and why?

Please answer in 50 words or less. Send via fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278

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