The American man took the pain of removing his tattoo to marry a Vietnamese wife

AmericaFor two years, Joseph Balsitis had to go to laser once every 8 weeks, remove tattoos on his chest and arms, so that his girlfriend would not be shy when walking beside him.

Joseph Balsitis got these tattoos during his time as a nurse in the US Army, stationed abroad. After being discharged from the army, returning home to attend university, he met Vietnamese girl Nguyen Hong Phuong Thao in History and Mathematics class at California State University in 2009.

At that time, Joseph was 28 years old and Phuong Thao had just turned 20 years old and had just moved to the US with her family. Not fluent in English, meeting a history subject that needs in-depth study, in the first test, Thao only got a C. This subject was Joseph’s “closet”, so Phuong Thao was familiar with him to ask questions.

Husband and wife Nguyen Hong Phuong Thao and Joseph Balsitis photographed at their home in Fullerton, California on Christmas 2020. Photo: Character provided.

Thao was good at Math, Joseph asked to teach the lesson for him. The group study sessions gradually made them understand each other better. Seeing the strong and confident Vietnamese girl, he gradually fell in love. On the days when Thao went to class, he didn’t pay attention to me, he drew attention like walking past her desk, intentionally dropping things or hitting people hard, if sitting far apart, he would speak loudly. As for Thao, she loves Joseph because of her enthusiasm, not afraid to hide the difficulties he is facing.

After two months of being a “companion couple”, Joseph invited Thao to drink coffee and then go for a walk in the park. The first time he went out, he held her hand tightly and didn’t let go. “His hand was big, he held it too tightly, so it took a few days for my hand to go home,” Thao remembered the two’s memories. That same day, the girl from Saigon accepted Joseph’s confession.

The first “gift” Joseph Balsitis gave Phuong Thao when the two fell in love was the decision to remove all the tattoos on his body. “I don’t want to hear objections when Thao walks next to me,” he explained. Thirteen years ago in the US, people with large tattoos were associated with criminals, dust or gangsters, so he also wanted to do this to facilitate his future work. Before performing, Joseph understood that tattoo removal can easily leave scars, pigment disorders or allergies, and even cause infections. “But for Thao, I’m always ready,” he affirmed.

For the next two years, Phuong Thao took her American boyfriend to a tattoo removal salon near her home every eight weeks. Watching the scene of Joseph straining to endure pain every time the laser passed through his chest and arms, the wound continuously bleeding, her heart tightened. “From that moment I realized, this is the man of my life,” the girl told her love story on a TV show in Vietnam in October 2021.

Officially in love, the two both go to school and work part-time, the time spent together is usually only a few dozen short minutes late at night. However, there was not a day that Joseph forgot to come to Thao’s house just to give her a kiss with good night wishes.

After two years, one day Joseph offered to live together. “But according to Vietnamese custom, after getting married, two people can live in the same house,” Thao told her lover. The American man immediately agreed.

They planned to return to Vietnam to take wedding photos, combine for Joseph to introduce the girl’s relatives in Saigon. On boarding the plane, seeing the prominent ring box in her lover’s pocket but not seeing him propose, Thao was impatient. Joseph just laughed, saying he would surprise her.

The surprise brought by the American guy made Thao still unable to forget: “It was a proposal in the swamp in Vung Tau”, she recalled.

Joseph was a jovial man who liked to make fun of people. When the wedding photography car had just stopped in front of the gate of a resort, the ground under his feet was wet and thick because of the heavy rain, he suddenly knelt in front of Thao: “You agree to be my wife.” Recalling the “not romantic but romantic” proposal as Thao commented, at that time she was still surprised and moved to tears.

The couple's wedding was held on November 12, 2011. The couple took pictures with Phuong Thao's parents.  Photo: Character provided.

The couple’s wedding was held on November 12, 2011. The couple took pictures with Phuong Thao’s parents. Photo: Character provided.

They got married in the US half a year after the proposal, in December 2011. Although moving into the same house, the two are still busy with work and study. On weekends, Joseph takes his wife to travel again, wherever she likes. For ten years now, the couple has never left each other.

At home, Joseph is the one who often goes to the kitchen to cook for his wife. He is knowledgeable about American cuisine and loves Vietnamese pho, tried to cook but failed. “Thanksgiving or New Year, when the family reunites, Joseph shows off his cooking skills. As a Western son-in-law, he doesn’t mind anything,” said Mrs. Nguyen Thi Cam Hong, Thao’s mother.

However, married life also has ups and downs, especially Thao has a jealous nature. A year after the wedding, she accidentally borrowed her husband’s computer and read a letter from her ex-high school lover to Joseph. That time, for three days and three nights, Thao had a “cold war” with her husband. She was only relieved when Joseph sent a reply saying that he was married, now each of them had their own lives. Also from that misunderstanding, Joseph stipulates that no matter what conflict, the couple must resolve it within the day, before going to bed. It was also their only anger after 10 years of marriage.

As husband and wife, Thao and Joseph are still like two friends when they strive to study together. Both graduated with a master’s degree last year and have stable jobs.

Currently, the husband has plans to study for a doctorate, the wife also has the same desire. Thao once said, it was Joseph’s constant learning spirit that motivated her to pursue her education, although before meeting him, she had not clearly defined her future.

Having lived in Spain for two years, suitable for life and weather here, Joseph’s wish is to come here to live. The American man often tells his wife about the future life of having children and a small house.

“It doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you and we are together,” Thao told her husband.

Hai Hien


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