An unexpected family reunion

For Diamond Bar High School senior Megan Ly, what started out as visiting her grandmother in Vietnam over winter break soon snowballed into discovering an unknown side of her family tree.

Ly and her family were convinced to travel to Vietnam for the first time when her grandmother, Thi Dung Lytram, insisted they visit her over winter break. Ly’s grandparents and parents immigrated to America near the end of the Vietnam War. After living in the U.S. for about 45 years, Lytram decided to permanently return to Vietnam four years ago, residing with her family in her homeland while staying close to her religion, Caodaism.

In the south countryside of Vietnam, Lytram introduced them to her prestigious Cao Dai temple, which she helped fund. In the temple, Ly’s grandmother leads prayers and conducts religious speeches for the 300 people who visit.

There, Ly’s family found out about a recent addition to their family: Lytram’s goddaughter, Minh. She was adopted by Lytram at age 44 after Minh’s parents had passed away. Together, they lead the temple on a daily basis.

Later, on New Year’s Day, Ly and her family arrived at her uncle’s house expecting to eat lunch with a few relatives. Little did they know that their grandmother had arranged a huge family gathering with their father’s entire extended family. That day, Ly found out that she had five grandaunts, 15 cousins and nine aunts and uncles that she had never met.

“I didn’t really know we had so many relatives in Vietnam,” Ly said. “I have a big family—three other siblings and parents in America—but when I went to Vietnam, there were so many people.”

According to Ly, the gathering was a great way to trace her roots and learn about the forebears of her family. Every since, she has been very close with her relatives.  

“It was really interesting getting to know them because I didn’t even know they existed, and I still talk to them now. They still DM me on Instagram and message me through Facebook,” Ly said.

Ly admired the true meaning behind this trip, and she considers it more valuable than any other trip she has gone to before.

“Usually in our trips we always go on vacation and relax, but this time, there is so much culture and family attached to it,” Ly said. “I learned about my ancestry and what my family is doing there, so it was very interesting and culture shocking.”

After her eye-opening experience during winter break, Ly has high hopes to meet her maternal relatives in Vietnam, especially since she may be revisiting Vietnam during the summer.

“There are so many people on my dad’s side and it made me think, ‘wow, maybe I  have more family on my mom’s side too that I don’t know about,” Ly said.