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Foreign military officers "homesick" at Shanghai Ex

SHANGHAI, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Thirty-nine military officers from 26 countries visited the Shanghai World Expo on Tuesday - but the trip reminded them more of their homeland and families.

The officers, mainly Africans, are all students from the Nanjing Army Command College of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in eastern China's Jiangsu Province who are taking part in a six-month officer training program.

Colonel Song Yuxiang, dean of the foreign students training department at the college, hopes the Expo trip will help the students to have a bettering understanding of China and the world.

"They came to China not only to learn military knowledge, but also to get to know the country and the Chinese people. There can't be a better classroom like the Expo to show them what China, and even the whole world, is like," said Song.

The foreign officers, however, were excited by the presences of their own countries' pavilions.

Captain Berthe Bassekou from Mali immediately sat down on the carpet in the middle of the Malian pavilion at the United African Pavilion.

"I will call my family later and tell them I have found Mali in China," said the officer excitedly. "I have left my country for more than two months. It's really surprising and exciting to see such a pavilion here. I just sat down naturally, because the arrangements and decorations are just like those in my home."

Bassekou, however, was surprised to find himself becoming another lively "exhibit" for the western African country, which remains a faraway, hardly known land for most Chinese.

Chinese visitors invited him to take a pictures with them when they heard the army man was actually from Mali.

"I want Chinese people to know Mali is a vast land with beautiful scenery. The exhibits here are mainly sculptures and pictures of tourist spots in north Mali. It's not all about Mali. They should go to my country to see it," said Bassekou.

Captain Eric Ntsosang from Botswana voluntarily worked as a host when he was in the pavilion of his homeland. The pavilion, with a huge diamond model at the entrance, was crowded with visitors when Ntsosang began to play a drum.

"I become homesick to see some of the videos here," said Ntsosang. "My country is very rich in diamonds. The posts we saw are about tourism and wild animals. I'm very proud of that because we have shown the world what we have are good resources."

Nisosang also hoped the Expo would not only bring more attention, but also more business opportunities to Africa.

"Africa has a lot of raw materials. The world can go there. The world can invest in Africa. We want people like Chinese to go to our country and invest so our economy can grow," he said.

The foreign students have also shown desires to learn from the Expo.

"Besides the Mali Pavilion, I want to see the pavilions about science and technology," said Bassekou. "The Expo is a global event where countries bring out their best to show it to the world. What we need in Mali, and Africa as well, I think, is science and technology."

Ntsosang, however, locked his eyes on the national pavilion of the host country.

"China, to me, most of the time, has been classified as a developing country. But it has developed so fast. I wonder why and how. I want to see and know Chinese culture, Chinese food and Chinese clothes, so I can compare them with what is happening in my country. Maybe I can have the answers," he said.



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