Love story of a 'little' couple selling lottery tickets in Saigon

By Quynh Tran   February 14, 2017 | 06:14 am PT
The tiny couple often attract curious looks, but embrace the simplicity of love and the bumpy road of life.

Nguyen Van Luong, 27, and his wife, Nguyen Thi Thu Dao, 25, drive around the corners of Saigon in their customized wheelchair every day to sell lottery tickets. The couple's size often draws attentions from passers-by.


Dao is 1.2m tall and her husband is 1.3m. "All of my siblings are a normal height, and I don't why I'm this small," Dao said. For Luong, his parents are just like anyone else, but all three of their children are short.


Giving up school at sixth grade, Luong traveled to Saigon and made a living by selling lottery tickets. In early 2014, Luong got lost as he was riding, and that mistake led him to his future wife. Feeling a connection, Luong decided to ask for her phone number.


"After meeting each other, I asked Dao to hangout and sell lottery tickets with me. And just like that, I took her from District 11 to Binh Tan everyday. I already had feelings for her from the first days we met, but it took me nearly a year to have the courage to ask her: 'Do you want to be my girlfriend?'," Luong said.


Dao, at first, shied away from an immediate response. "I also liked him but since the day I came to Saigon, I didn't really have time to think about love with all the pressure of making a living. And besides, thinking about how people would make fun of us; a short couple getting together, made me hesitate for months. But Luong insisted, and after four months, we officially became a couple," said Dao.


Luong is very attentive when it comes to taking care for his wife. The young man moved to a new place near his girlfriend's house. At the end of 2015, Dao introduced her boyfriend to her parents, but they didn't approve of the relationship. "I had to travel back there (Binh Dinh Province) several times to convince them to let me marry their daughter," Luong said. "Then we became husband and wife in November 20 of the same year."


The couple moved into a rented apartment lying deep in a small alley on Ma Lo Street, Binh Tan District.


In 2016, Dao gave birth to a baby but after merely five hours, the child passed away. "Doctors told me that Dao's immune system was very weak, so the child wasn't healthy enough. We were very sad about losing our baby, but it's fate. The doctors also said we should not try to have another child since there is a high chance of the same thing happening again," said Luong.


Dao's weak immune system makes her vulnerable to illnesses. And for Luong, he lost the sight in his right eye as a child while his remaining eye still occasionally fails him on days when the sun shines a little too bright.


Each day, the couple sell 150 lottery tickets. Luong often talks with customers while Dao sits in the borrowed wheelchair. "I have known this couple for a long time," said Huynh Quoc Trung, a mechanic in Binh Tan District. "I always buy a few tickets when I see them. Sometimes their wheelchair is broken, so I fix it for them, free of charge."


At around noon and at dusk, Luong and Dao return home to prepare for meals and take a rest.


Their meals are always plain and simple as the couple tries to stick to a budget of under VND60,000 ($2.6). "We try to save as much as we can but it is still not enough, especially when we get sick. Fortunately there are people who give us rice for free so it isn't so bad," said Dao.


Luong admited that, given their financial circumstances, a present or romantic gesture for Dao on Valentine's Day is something almost out of the question. "My wife understands that. At the moment, we are only trying to focus on earning money. Sometimes we may have a quarrel if the tickets don't sell well, but eventually things are fine. If I have enough money, I will switch to selling fried fish balls. The traditional lottery doesn't sell as well as before and requires us to travel a lot. After all, our health isn't so good," said Luong.

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