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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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???
The next morning after a good breakfast, the fun activities began.
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!!!
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
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.
Time to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings and beautiful nature.
Resting in this beautiful little building:
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:
We also had the privilege of meeting this totally cool guitar-teacher, Byeong is his name, who teaches in a music-school in Korea:
Let me introduce you to our amazing translators. They were young Korean students, who all spoke perfect English:
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:
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:
This is the Convention Center, where most of the activities were held.
Playing in the Piano Concert:
Yes, we can do it!!!
We even tried on traditional Korean clothes:
Free time activities:
Going hiking with Rachel, our sweet personal translator:
Meet the participants from other countries:
Malaysia (on the right):
Don’t know from where: but we are in front of the Korean palace:
Of course Korea:
Germany and some other country:
Other countries that I don’t remember where they were from:
We even had Mini Special Olympic Games:
Our awesome and sweet translators also helping out at the Mini Special Olympic games.
Special dinner to honor all staff, organizers, contributors and supporters:
Eugene was Christina’s favorite. She fell in love 🙂
Touring Seoul, the capital of South Korea was so much fun:
The King who invented the Korean alphabet
With my new Brazilian friends in front of the palace. Feeling like a Queen 🙂
The man from India helped watch Christina and hung on to her in all this busy and dangerous traffic in Seoul.
The palace up close:
Feeling safe by the guards:
Shopping in Seoul:
Lunch the Korean style: on the floor:
Who are these masked people?
Here we are:
Where did my body go? It must have left me, because there are no fruits or vegetables to eat.
Christina left her body in Korea. Only her head will be returning to USA.
Meet the founder and staff:
Na, Kyung-Won, the founder of Special Music Festival Korea
Nam Do and Cheoung Sik, Special Olympics Korea Staff:
The man who greeted us first at the Special Music festival
Christina with Wang So_Young, Senior Director
Most of the organizing, founding and sponsoring staff:
Time to say Good Bye:
Bye Bye, Ciao, Korea, we will miss you and see you all next year: