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Wenchuan: Cola Boy says, life is so sweet now

Updated: 2013-05-09 14:43
(China Daily)

Cola Boy Xue Xiao says his bond with the beverage will last some time, if not a lifetime.

The Wenchuan earthquake survivor, who gained his nickname after telling emergency workers he wanted the drink while trapped under debris, has just earned an internship at Coca-Cola China in Shanghai.

He will learn more about reading financial sheets — a skill he studied at university — and gain insights into how a company runs, which he says will help fulfill his dream to be a businessman.

"Real practice at a company is slightly different from what we learn at school," says Xue, a senior at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

Wenchuan: Cola Boy says, life is so sweet now

Xue Xiao told emergency workers he wanted a cola when rescuers freed him after 80 hours under rubble. Provided to China Daily

Wenchuan: Cola Boy says, life is so sweet now

He's now an intern at Coca-Cola and a Shanghai University of Finance and Economics senior. Gao Erqiang/China Daily

"I know I'm short of work experience and being employed as an intern will teach me more about a company and society," he says. "Everything is fresh to me."

After taking his first peek inside the Coca-Cola offices, the 22-year-old said he discovered most things are decorated in the company's iconic red, while he was surprised to see people seated in small cubicles within a big office. "My colleagues may not be familiar with my face, but when I was introduced as Cola Boy everybody went ‘Ahhh' and recognized me," he says.

Xue, a native of Hanwang in Sichuan's Mianzhu city, was trapped underneath the rubble of a collapsed school building for 80 hours after the earthquake. His right arm was later amputated. While rescuers pulled him free, the youngster said: "I want a cola, an icy one."

The comments were quickly broadcast to tens of millions of people across China and brought relief and amusement to a country amid great sorrow.

Five years later, Xue says the comment gave people the wrong impression, and he explains that the drink is not as important to him as many people believe.

"After being trapped that long, I just wanted something sweet and tasty," he says, as he sits in his university dorm room.

Coca-Cola took advantage of the opportunity to get in touch with the young man.

After his right arm was amputated, the US company, based in Atlanta, paid for an artificial limb and gave him tickets to Beijing Olympic events in 2008.

Yet Xue's bond with the popular drink has not always been a happy one, and in some cases has been a "sweet burden", he says.

While hospitalized after the earthquake, the public kept sending him cola after learning of his widely reported affection of it.

"The beverage arrived case after case," he recalls. "I kept sending them away but they would quickly fill the space under my hospital bed again."

In the years after the disaster, people he dined with — friends, classmates and even strangers — would order him a cola. "It's very hard for me to reject others' kindness," he says.

Because of the large intake of the carbonated drink and other unhealthy food, and combined with a lack of physical exercise, Xue has gained about 25 kg over the past five years. Standing a little less than 1.7 meters, he now weighs a corpulent 85 kg.

"To lose weight, I'm trying to do more exercise and drink less soda," he says. "For cola, it's once a week now."

"I'm happy to see my destiny with cola continue."

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