By Alcina Charlie: Vanuatu stood out with a big bang at Yeosu Expo in Korea, rippling numbers in the thousands propping up to the Vanuatu booth to discover Vanuatu as a special holiday and business & investment destination. I arrived in Yeosu as VTO staffer and as well as an entertainer to sing the National Anthem and several of my compositions I wrote on Vanuatu. It felt good singing with dignity and I guess the highlight of it all was wearing my red Ambae mat and Tanna grass-skirt on the day promoting my island and cultural heritage. Departing Vila on 24th July, I arrived in Yeosu, south Korea 2 nights later via Sydney, then Seoul which was a total of 16hours of flight time. I travelled with the entertainers, 2 expo committee members, and the Commissioner General Linda Kalpoi. On board Asiana airlines, I was already getting a taste of what to expect in Korea; healthy fresh sea food, warm hospitality, and multitudes of great singers - yes the Korean pop channel had me hooked the entire 11 hours from Sydney to Seoul and back.
Photo shoot after performance at Expo Hall.
I was met by Nick Issachar, Expo Booth Manager and Coordinator, when I arrived in Yeosu who then promptly took me to expo town where I was going to be accommodated until 3rd August before departing for Vanuatu. The apartments were lovely, spacious and looking down from my floor, the expo check in centre was a small match box which made my stomach turn the first time I peered down but after a few days, the feeling faded as I was getting used to ¾ apartment glass wall from roof to floor. Days building up towards Vanuatu’s National & Independence Day on 30th July, were spent on perfecting and mastering our every move, the performances, and timing allocated for each item and when I was not rehearsing with the rest of the entertainers, I ran through the National Anthem. Come National Day on Monday 30th July, a crispy morning greeted us, though warmer than usual but all the excitement had the air abuzz that we didn’t notice the rising heat. The day’s schedule, beginning from the Government delegation parade to flag ceremony podium where Vanuatu’s National Anthem penetrated Korean skies and into the Expo Hall for the commencement of the official ceremony, ended beautifully with a performance galore that blended Vanuatu cultural and contemporary dance and music to the likes of “Wasi reh Pranda”, and “Vanuatu Paradise”. There was a brief photo session in the expo hall after the performance then it was time to draw prize for 6 lucky winners to fly to Vanuatu which took place outside the Pacific Paradise pavilion. Here, another brief show that combined dance and song which had Korean and Vanuatu flags waving to and fro, as so did inside the Expo Hall. This ended the entertainer’s morning program, followed by a 2-3 hours rest enough to re-energize and kick start a great evening at the MVL Hotel.
Korea was something else. I have absorbed so much in such little time, just by observing. The trips to the Suncheon Bay Ecotourism site for the World Garden Expo 2013, and Korea H4 Youth Program has been eye-opening and indeed a valuable experience for the entire Vanuatu delegation. The Koreans, young and old alike, were always welcoming with big smiles and a gentle bow as they greeted with “Haniong’ eseoh” meaning “hallo or welcome” everywhere we went made my trip truly, a wonderful cultural exchange and an experience that I will always treasure.
Vanuatu delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Honorable Ham Lini, at the Suncheon Bay Ecotourism site.