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Coke Boy charms Expo

"CAN you help me find a girlfriend?" 19-year-old Xue Xiao, the survivor of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake known as Coke Boy, joked with reporters at the Expo site yesterday.

He gained his nickname when he greeted his rescuers, after being buried for 80 hours, with the words: "Get me a Coke, iced, please." His cheerful optimism despite severe injuries that led to the amputation of his right arm, moved people across China.

Xue doesn't really want a girlfriend, yet, he was just fooling with journalists. He said study was still his top priority and that was more important to him at the moment than to find a girlfriend.

Xue was visiting Expo for the third time yesterday. He said he wanted to return to some pavilions, especially his favorite China and Italy pavilions, to study the exhibitions carefully before going back to his hometown in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province, today for the summer vacation.

On his previous visits, which had been arranged by Expo organizers and some pavilions, there had been little time to take in the exhibitions in detail.

What had impressed him most were the "Along the River During Qingming Festival" painting in the China Pavilion and the racing cars in the Italy Pavilion.

"I feel my horizons have been broadened, which was my biggest reward from visiting the Expo," he said.

Xue is studying finance at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. He said he felt?the pressure of study but he could handle it. He was now above the average level at the one of the best universities in the country, he said.

He can now write both Chinese and English with his left hand after many hours of practice. And he memorizes 10 English words every day to enable him to better communicate with foreigners.

Xue spends most his weekends in the library but visits areas around Shanghai if he has any spare time. The Shanghai Oceanarium is his favorite place in the city.

Before the earthquake Xue liked playing basketball. He watches NBA games and still, despite his injuries, plays some games.

He lives in the school dorm, but prefers his hometown, a village near Chengdu.

"The rhythm of life in Shanghai is too fast, while the pace in Chengdu is very slow and relaxed, which is more comfortable," he said.

The weather in Chengdu is also more comfortable, Xue said. Before the earthquake, his home was in the middle of two mountains and winds kept blowing in summer.

To stave off feelings of being homesick, he goes to restaurants serving Sichuan cuisine near the campus often. He said what he worried most before coming to Shanghai was that the city's food might be too sweet.


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