In 2008, I was pleased to announce that "Love and the American War" was the very first of my travel essays to be published. The essay below is included in a collection called To Vietnam With Love. ThingsAsian Press. 2008. pp 93-96.
July 30, 2003
Dear Family and Friends,
My dear readers. You must be wondering, "Jan has traveled the length of Vietnam. He has extolled the physical beauty of the country and the wonderful people he has met. But nowhere has he mentioned the unmentionable." Stand by.
My tour outside of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) made two stops. The first was the Caodai Temple in Tay Ninh. The second was the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The Cu Chi Tunnels formed a network of military strongholds which held up to 16,000 Viet Cong for months at a time. Only 6000 survived the relentless bombing. Thousands of civilians died in the vicinity.
At Cu Chi, tourists crawl around the tunnels and then visit the adjacent museum. I politely declined. Instead, I sat at the nearby café and started to gather my thoughts for this letter.
I really cannot explain my reasoning; I cannot account for my emotions. Sometimes, I just "decline."