Pyeongchang, Korea, International Music Festival

My little Christina, born with Down syndrome, who also calls herself the Piano-Star, was invited by Special Olympics Korea to participate in their 2nd Special Music and Art Festival in Pyeongchang,, South Korea, located in the Taebaek Mountains region.

On our way to Korea

Bye Bye Arizona, USA

After a 13 hour flight, we arrived in Korea at Inchon International airport, where we were greeted by Cheoung Sik Woo, staff of the Special Olympics Korea.

Hello Korea

Cheoung Sik Woo, Special Olympics Korea Staff

The airport was still a 3 hour drive away from the Alpensia Resort, and so we had to wait nearly 5 hours at the airport for others from different countries to arrive, before driving to our final destination. So Christina with her unending energy and curiosity made friends right away with people that were waiting with us.

Anil, our new friend from India

Our new friend from Malaysia

It is finally time to get on the bus and after a 3 hour drive we finally arrive at the Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang. We were tired and exhausted, but full of joy, and I had to pinch myself, because I just couldn’t believe that I was in South Korea, a Peninsula located in East Asia.

When I looked out of the  bus-window, I saw tall, sky-scraper-like buildings that are actually apartments that the Koreans call “home.”

Skyscraper apartments near Inchon

Apartments in South Korea

At 11pm we finally arrived at the resort and got a little surprise for the first night: we had to share a room with another family and slept Korean style: on the floor. But we were so tired and exhausted, we didn’t care. Anything was better than the airplane or the bus at that point. And we got to meet 2 wonderful people, Dainora and Viktorija from Luthiania.

At the Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang

The Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang is a most beautiful place nestled in the mountains. The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held there, since it is a ski-resort.

Alpensia Ski Resort in Pyeongchang, South Korea

A skiers dream: ski-slopes at the Alpensia Resort

Speaking of ski-slopes and the Olympic Winter Games, here is something kind of scary: a ski-slope. Can you imagine going down that thing???

Ski Tower in Korea

Would you go down this ski slope?

The next morning after a good breakfast, the fun activities began.

Christina and Eugene, one of our translator, enjoying breakfast together

First thing, we had an Orientation Gathering, where to our great surprise we were showered with totally cool gifts: both Mate and Mentee received a cool bag with the Pyeongchang Special Music Festival Logo on it and this bag was filled with T-shirts, an umbrella, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, and our schedule….wow..Thank You!!!

Orientation Meeting

The main point and theme was: Together We Play.

Together We Play

Check out these cool exhibitions in the Convention Center: no no, not Christina and I, but the instruments behind us…haha

Instrument Exhibition

Also getting to know some of the other participants from different parts of the world. We met Anil and his son from India and Dainora, a fine pianist from Luthiania.

First Friendships

Time to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings and beautiful nature.

Group Hike around the lake at Alpensia

Lake at Alpensia resort

Alpensia rocks

The resort nestled in the Taebaek Mountains region

Resting in this beautiful little building:

By the lake near the rest-house

Luthianians and us

Taking a rest with Christna’s all time favorite, Eugene

After dinner it was time for the Opening Ceremony and they had a most inspiring artist scheduled for us: Nicholas McCarthy. A concert pianist who was born without his right arm. We first met him at the airport, and he told me that he was a pianist, but I didn’t believe him when I saw he was missing an arm. But to my great surprise he played better than most people with both hands. Here listen for yourself:

The Festival provided several famous piano teachers, and Christina had the privilege to study with 3 of them:

Younghee Lee, Teacher No.1

Sweet Piano Teacher No.2, Jonghwa

Teacher No.3, Yoon Ju Oh, Professor College of Music

We also had the privilege of meeting this totally cool guitar-teacher, Byeong is his name, who teaches in a music-school in Korea:

Byeong, the guitar teacher we met in Korea

Byeong, the guitar teacher we met in Korea

Let me introduce you to our amazing translators. They were young Korean students, who all spoke perfect English:

Our awesome Korean Translators

We love our translators: Rachel (left) and Lisa (right)

Hannah, a 14 year old Korean translator. We are at the ski tower.

The only part I did not like was the food. The choice was meat, meat and meat, fish, fish and fish!!!! Being a vegan vegetarian this was very disturbing and stressful for me. The only thing I ate was plain white rice, noodles and toast, they at least had that. Nevertheless, meet the amazing chefs:

Our chefs

Our Korean chefs

Time for the Special Piano Concert: Christina was very excited to play in the concert with all the other piano students. She got all dressed up and her face was just beaming with pride and joy:

All dressed up for the piano concert

This is the Convention Center, where most of the activities were held.

Alpensia Convention Center

Playing in the Piano Concert:

The Piano Star

Students and Teachers

Yes, we can do it!!!

Together we can!!! Yes, we can!!!

We even tried on traditional Korean clothes:

Korean Queen I am!!!

King and Queen of Korea

Free time activities:

Hiking trail in Alpensia

Hiking Trail

Going hiking with Rachel, our sweet personal translator:

Hiking with sweet Rachel, our personal translator

Walking on water in side the big bubble. So fun.

Playing games together

Meet the participants from other countries:

Malaysia (on the right):







Hungarian girl with Down syndrome

Hungarian boy who’s sister has Down syndrome


The Italians, Emanuele and Simone

Don’t know from where: but we are in front of the Korean palace:

In front of the Korean palace

Of course Korea:

Christina and her friend from Korea playing a Winter Game

Germany and some other country:

The Germans and some other country

The Germans and some other country



Other countries that I don’t remember where they were from:

Last Good byes

Nice lady and her autistic son, who plays viola

Another friend

We even had Mini Special Olympic Games:

Mini Special Olympics Banner

Special Ed teacher in Korea

Our awesome translators helping out at the Mini Special Olympics

Special Olympics Korea

Our awesome and sweet translators also helping out at the Mini Special Olympic games.

Our awesome translators helping at the Games

Special dinner to honor all staff, organizers, contributors and supporters:

Elegant dinner to honor all supporters, sponsors, organizers and staff

Fine dining

Eugene was Christina’s favorite. She fell in love 🙂

Eugene was her favorite.

Touring Seoul, the capital of South Korea was so much fun:

The King who invented the Korean alphabet

The King who invented the Korean alphabet

With my new Brazilian friends in front of the palace. Feeling like a Queen 🙂

With my new Brazilien friends in front of the palace

The man from India helped watch Christina and hung on to her in all this busy and dangerous traffic in Seoul.

Christina and her BIG friend from India

Inside the palace

The palace up close:

The Palace

Palace guards:

Palace nurds

Feeling safe by the guards:

feeling safe by the palace guard

Shopping in Seoul:

holding hands while shopping in Seoul aawweee

Lunch the Korean style: on the floor:

Restaurant in Seoul, all Korean style

Lunch on the floor

The whole group is eating on the floor

Who are these masked people?

Who are these masked people?

Here we are:

Here we are!

Where did my body go? It must have left me, because there are no fruits or vegetables to eat.

Ooops where is my body?

Christina left her body in Korea. Only her head will be returning to USA.

Christina left her body in Korea. Only her head will be returning to America.

Meet the founder and staff:

Na, Kyung-Won, the founder of Special Music Festival Korea

Na, Kyung-Won, the founder of the International Special Music Festival Korea

Christina and Founder of Pyeongchang Music and Art Festival

Nam Do and Cheoung Sik, Special Olympics Korea Staff:

Nam Do (left) and CheoungSik (right)

The man who greeted us first at the Special Music festival

The man who greeted us first at the Special Music Festival

Christina with Wang So_Young, Senior Director

Christina with Wang So_Young, Senior Director

Most of the organizing, founding and sponsoring staff:

Most of the sponsors, organizers and other very key people

Time to say Good Bye:

Saying Good Bye

Bastian from Germany and Christina saying “Tschuess” at Inchon airport

Alone at the airport and already missing everyone

Bye Bye, Ciao, Korea, we will miss you and see you all next year:

Ciao Korea, we will miss everyone. Hope to see you All next year.

The End


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