Vietnamese-American man's pursuit of love leads from billboard to bride

By Hai Hien   February 12, 2024 | 08:26 pm PT
Wandering the Saigon streets, Vietnamese-American man Nguyen Tuan saw a billboard advertisement for a college course, and was immediately head over heels for the woman in the picture.

He signed up for the class right away.

It was 2017, and Tuan had traveled from his home in Seattle (U.S.) to visit family in Ho Chi Minh City.

"At that time, I didn't know if the woman on the billboard was a lecturer or a student, but I knew that if I wanted to find her, the only way was to risk enrolling," he told VnExpress.

When he began taking the class at Hutech University, Tuan learned that the young woman was Phan My Thanh, 20 years old, a second-year student and the academic manager for a business administration course at the school.

But he rarely saw her on campus, so he went to the faculty office and asked for her schedule.

My Thanh and Nguyen Tuan in their wedding photo from the ceremony in January 2021, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo courtesy of Thanh and Tuan

My Thanh and Nguyen Tuan in their wedding photo from the ceremony in January 2021, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo courtesy of Thanh and Tuan

They officially met a month into the school year when Thanh showed up at Tuan’s class to assist the lecturer.

When Tuan approached his crush and lowered his face to read Thanh's name tag on her shirt, she thought he was just another "perverted student," and rebuffed his every advance. When she then learned that it was he who had inquired at the office about her work schedule, she tried to avoid him even more.

It was then she who looked up his schedule, and seeing that he often took afternoon classes, she made sure only to be at school in the mornings. But, unexpectedly, in an effort to "run-into" her, Tuan began showing up to class early.

He would flirt with her every time he saw her, but all he got back was indifference.

Tuan changed his plan and instead began staying after class because he knew Thanh was always the last to leave.

However, she felt uncomfortable with Tuan’s constant gaze, particularly when he watched her every time she tidied up the classroom at the end of her shift.

She eventually confronted him about it.

He told her he wanted her phone number to discuss the class, and as the school assistant, she felt she couldn’t refuse.

But when he began texting her, there were no questions about the course, only brief chats and requests to meet.

When he couldn’t persuade her that way, Tuan called Thanh’s boss and said she wasn’t doing her job because she wasn’t helping answer his questions about the class.

After being scolded, the girl reluctantly texted Tuan and received an invitation: "We’ll meet just once, then I’ll leave you alone."

Tired of being harassed, Thanh accepted, thinking: "just once".

Before going to the appointment, she sent the meeting location to a group of close friends and made up a rescue scenario because she was afraid that Tuan would act inappropriately.

As for Tuan, he researched Thanh's favorite dishes and chose a sidewalk noodle shop that she often visited. After the meal, Thanh paid quickly and prepared to leave. Tuan ran after her and said that he had never seen someone pay so quickly and leave. Reluctantly, Thanh agreed to let him invite her back for coffee.

After some long talks, Thanh realized that Tuan was not what she thought before. Both grew up in single-parent families – making it hard for them to pursue their studies and future jobs.

"I gradually let go of my cautious attitude towards him and switched to sympathy. Despite his personality on the outside, Tuan is a very emotional person deep inside," Thanh said.

Tuan originally ran a business in the US. When visited Vietnam, he continued running his business online. When it was time for him to return to the U.S., his relationship had improved, so he decided to stay. After a few months, Thanh agreed to be his girlfriend.

After being together for a while, while walking around town, Thanh had a traffic accident. The moment Tuan put his lover in the ambulance, he suddenly trembled for fear of losing her.

All he could think was "I have to protect this woman, this is the most important person in my life."

As soon as Thanh returned home from the hospital, Tuan knelt and proposed to her, giving her a ring, and also donning one himself, with the promise: "Only when I take the ring off will we officially break up."

They arranged to wait until Thanh graduated from school to have the wedding.

My Thanh and Nguyen Tuan with their family on a trip in 2022. Photo courtesy of Thanh and Tuan

My Thanh and Nguyen Tuan with their family on a trip in 2022. Photo courtesy of Thanh and Tuan

When preparing for the wedding in early 2020, Thanh discovered that she had stage three adenomyosis, making it difficult to carry a child. Understanding that Tuan always longed for the sound of children in the house, she proposed they end things, but he objected. Tuan said they could adopt a child instead.

The couple's wedding was then scheduled for January 2021. A week earlier, Thanh was surprised to learn that she was pregnant. It was then, after many years together, that she first saw Tuan - the man she thought was strong and not afraid of anything - burst into tears.

To take care of his wife, Tuan switched all his work online in order to spend his time at home with her. In July 2021, Thanh gave birth to her first daughter, and both mother and child are healthy.

Ever since becoming a mother, Thanh, despite feeling somewhat secondary in her family, remains joyful, attributing this happiness to her husband's affection and attentiveness. She credits Tuan with inspiring positive changes in her, including adopting healthier eating habits and exercising more regularly. "His patience has been crucial in keeping us together for so long, and it's largely thanks to him that I've become the person I am today," Thanh expressed.

Tuan, on his part, feels a deep compatibility with his wife, aligning in their thoughts, ideas, and feelings. He is particularly drawn to Thanh's unassuming and modest nature, which he believes amplifies his love and respect for her.

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