BEIJING -- Xu Jiao, a 15-year-old girl from Qingchuan county in southwestern Sichuan Province received a "welcoming kiss" from sea lion Max at the Beijing Aquarium on Wednesday.
She was among the 36 middle school pupils who came to the aquarium for a Spring Festival celebration. The pupils came to study in Beijing last autumn after their school was destroyed by the 8.0-magnitude earthquake in May.
Xu and other two students were invited to the stage. They received sea lions' affectionate touches and danced with the dolphins.
"It was a bit frightening. I had never seen a sea lion before," said Xu. But after a shaky moment, she admitted that it was "fun".
Xu and her companions then moved to the Panda House at the Beijing Zoo to see the eight pandas which were transported from Sichuan for the Beijing Olympics in August.
The China Youth Development Foundation planned to take Xu and her fellows home by coach before the Spring Festival. But the snow in their hometown made it unsafe to drive. So they planned a special Lunar New Year vacation for them in Beijing.
More than 300 people volunteered to keep the children accompanied during the Spring Festival," said Cai Peng, an official with the foundation. He said 18 families registered to invite them for dinner at their homes in the week of official new year's holidays from January 25-31.
"It's so different to celebrate new year in Beijing. Everything is novel," said Xu Jiao.