A Vietnamese military lieutenant serving in a mountainous region in northern Vietnam and his wife, an engineer for a steel company in Spain, are a testament that distance means nothing in love.
Vu Thi Tan loved Spain but her love for Tran Trong Tuan is greater. After ten years of building a life in the European country she moved back last year to Vietnam to marry the military officer, a man she’s loved for more than ten years but only met a handful of times over the past decade.
Tuan and Tan both grew up in Ha Nam Province, 50 kilometers south of Hanoi, where they attended the same high school.
In 2004, after taking national college entrance exams, Tuan decided to attend the Air Defense – Air Force Academy while Tan opted for the Hanoi University of Science.
Later that year, Tan’s outstanding academic performance earned her a scholarship to study in Russia, sparking the beginning of their long-distance relationship.
Complicating the situation, the academy where Tuan was studying only allowed the use of internet for studying, making it extremely difficult for him to stay in touch with Tan.
After a few weeks, Tuan was given permission to leave the academy and call Tan through Yahoo!, a social medium popular in Vietnam during that time.
“We only had time to talk for an hour,” Tuan recalled. When Tan spent her 2007 summer in Vietnam, the couple still hadn’t admitted to each other that they were in love.
In 2010, Tan graduated from her program in Russia and returned to Vietnam for a short time before receiving a scholarship for graduate degree in Spain, where she also got her doctoral degree.
Because of the time difference, the two were only able to talk once a week, on Saturdays from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am Vietnam time, during which time they spoke breathlessly of their daily lives.
Over the course of their decade-long relationship, the couple was only able to see each other eight times. And even with technology making it easy to get in contact with each other, the distance between the two led them to break up on three separate occasions.
There was even a two year stint where they weren’t able to see each other.
“We never thought that we’d actually cross paths again,” young soldier Tran Trong Tuan said.
“Her work in Spain was going well so it was very difficult to ask her to give up something she was passionate about.”
Tuan himself is a proud soldier, passionate about protecting his country and dedicate to his unit.
“After five years of studying in the academy for air force and defense, I grew attached to my unit and this profession,” Tuan, whose father also served in the military, explained.
“It was impossible for me to leave the army.”
In 2017 the stalemate in their relationship disappeared when Tan made the decision to move back to Vietnam.
“Moving to Vietnam was a very difficult decision for me because I already had a stable job and a certain status in the society,” Tan shared.
The woman also acknowledged that the move back to Vietnam was a drastic and difficult change, given that Tuan served in the military at a base in mountainous area in the northern province of Son La.
“One can say that I’ve given up everything to be with Tuan,” she said.
A beautiful love story
The couple’s wedding was a small, simple ceremony after which Tan took a three-month business trip to Spain.
“Our most beautiful memories are from when we see each other because we meet so rarely,” Tuan said.
“We appreciate and value every moment we spend together.”
Due to Tuan’s work, he is unable to visit Tan abroad.
“For the ten years we’ve loved each other my wife has sacrificed a lot. She was always the one to visit me while I never gave her a gift, nor did I ever take her on a trip or shopping,” the soldier said.
Since his unit was assigned to work in the mountains, not only did she have to come back to Vietnam, but she also had to endure long drives of hundreds of kilometers from Hanoi to his military base.
The soldier did take his significant other on two dates, but one of which was to a Son La-based prison so that he could rejoin his unit in case of an emergency.
After seven years of living in Spain, being one of the ten most talented engineers at a steel business in Europe, Tan was offered a job in Asia to work in South Korea with a net wage of US$200,000, but she refused because she loved her life in Spain and never thought she’d leave the country.
“I really appreciate the honesty and love Tuan has for me,” Tan said, explaining why she was eventually willing to leave Europe.
Being in a long distance relationship with a soldier is very challenging.
Tan said that on special occasions she never received any flowers or gifts, but a sweet text message starting with “my love” was enough to make her day.