Suong Nguyen waited.
For seven years, she lived in a small hut in Cam Ranh, Vietnam - waiting to start a new life in the United States, pinning her hopes on a man who had made her a promise.
Long Phan of Spokane kept his word.
Since he came to this country in 1990, the Vietnamese native has worked three jobs to bring his bride to the United States.
He became a U.S. citizen and wrote letters to the Vietnamese government. He worked 70 hours a week and saved thousands of dollars.
After years of waiting and piles of paperwork, Phan and Nguyen finally were reunited last week. They celebrated Tuesday along with 90 residents of Rockwood Lane Retirement Community, where Phan has worked for the last six years.
“I am so happy,” Nguyen, 31, said in Vietnamese. There were times, she said, when she didn’t think she would see him again.
Her husband, who translated for her, stood by her side with a guitar in hand. His eyes were fixed on his wife - a quiet woman with long black hair and wearing a bright yellow ao dai, a silky, long-sleeved outfit worn by women in Vietnam.
To the applause of the Rockwood residents, Phan sang her a love song in Vietnamese.
“I was very sad for so long,” said Phan, 33. “I hoped to someday bring her with me. … Now, my dream has come true.”
Phan and Nguyen met 11 years ago in Cam Ranh, a city in central Vietnam. They were neighbors, Phan said, and he thought she was pretty. When he left Vietnam, he promised he would marry her and bring her to the United States.
Two years ago, he returned to Vietnam for a few days to marry her. But he left after the wedding. He wasn’t a U.S. citizen then and he wasn’t allowed to bring her back.
“They fell in love and just waited,” said On Ha, Phan’s mother.
Many immigrants who come to this country never see their loved ones again. It takes at least a year to petition for relatives to join those who have become U.S. citizens. It also takes money.
To bring her to this country, Phan had to save $10,000 just to prove to immigration officials that he could support her.
“He missed her and wanted her to come,” said his sister, Nga Phan. “But it was so difficult.”
Long Phan came to America with his mother, three sisters and a brother. They didn’t want to stay in Vietnam, a Communist country where many live in poverty. The Phans’ home was a straw hut, recalled Nga Phan, now 27. There was never enough to eat. Long Phan, who provided for the family, earned less than $1 a day.
Unlike most Vietnamese, Phan’s family was able to come because Nga Phan is Amerasian. Through a U.S. program for children of war veterans, the family arrived in Spokane after a six-month stay in a refugee camp.
From day one, all Long Phan wanted was to be with Nguyen, said Marlene Walters, one of the managers at Rockwood.
He worked in Alaska at a cannery to earn extra money. The rest of the year, he held several jobs including one as a custodian at Rockwood.
The residents adopted him and his family, Walters said. They taught them English and helped them get jobs at the retirement center. Some of the residents helped Phan fill out the citizenship paperwork and even wrote letters of support when he was petitioning for Nguyen to join him.
“We’ve been praying forever for this girl to get here,” Walters said. “(Seven years) is a long time to wait for a bride.”
A few months before Nguyen arrived, Phan remodeled his four-bedroom home, which he shares with his family.
At the reception, the two were so nervous they started to giggle.
“I would like to thank everyone,” Phan told the crowd. “I’ve very happy today.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
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