After six months in Shanghai, 10-year-old Lin Hao, the youngest hero of China's massive 2008 quake, is back in his home province.
High living costs and the pressure of his studies brought Lin home. He and his 13-year-old sister started the new semester Monday at Yandaojie Primary School here in the capital of the southwestern Sichuan Province.
The family rented a house beside the school, said father Lin Dakun. Both parents are seeking work: the father used to be a construction laborer and the wife was a cleaner.
Lin's family survived the May 12 earthquake centered in Sichuan, which is known to have taken nearly 70,000 lives and left more than 5 million people homeless.
Lin Hao, then nine, of Yingxiu Township, Wenchuan County, pulled two classmates from the rubble. As a result, he was honored as a "heroic child" in quake rescue and relief.
Price of fame
The Lin family moved to Shanghai last August after Lin Hao said he wished to study there. Although Lin and his sister got free schooling in Shanghai, the family found it hard to live in the metropolis.
"My wife and I couldn't find jobs, so it was hard to afford the high cost of living," recalled Lin Dakun.
He said the family had to pay 2,000 yuan (about 269 U.S. dollars) for rent and 1,500 yuan for other monthly living costs.
"All those expenses had to come out of our savings before the quake," the 38-year-old man told Xinhua.
In Shanghai, the family could have been better off if Lin had accepted offers for the son to be in TV commercials. "I didn't want to sell my son's fame and image for money," said the father.
But he changed his mind during this year's Spring Festival when he returned to the devastated Yingxiu, where he saw some children who had been left handicapped by the the quake.
"If the TV commercial is suitable, I might let my son take the offer and we might even help those needy people with the money" despite the economic pressures facing the family, said the elder Lin.
Lin Hao has kept the stories that newspapers wrote about him. One of the stories was about a memorable moment at the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, when the little boy walked hand-in-hand with basketball idol Yao Ming.
The father isn't too sure whether so much fame is good for Haohao, the boy's nickname. "I don't want him to think he's different from other kids."
The father has done his best to shelter the boy from media attention in Sichuan, a lesson he drew from their experience in Shanghai, where Lin Hao did so many interviews, he neglected his studies.
"My son was very nervous in Shanghai, where he was a celebrity and couldn't play like other kids," said the father. He said Lin Hao wanted to attend Tsinghua University, one of China's best universities.
"I don't want anyone to disturb his studies," said Lin Dakun.
The father said he had no ambitions for himself, beyond a stable job that would allow him to support his family.
"If I cannot find a job in Chengdu, I will go back to the countryside, and so will Haohao," said Lin Dakun. "We are farmers. I'm ready for that."
(Xinhua News Agency February 18, 2009)