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一个肯尼亚女孩在中国的奇幻之旅 The Fairy Tour —A Kenyan Girl in China(1)

Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Noon, June the 13th.
Seveline received her passport with dark blue cover and a Chinese tourist visa inside from an official with the Chinese Consulate. After a chain of amazing events, the Kenya young woman who had never left her hometown was going to take a flight from Nairobi to Doha and then a connecting flight to Bejing, beginning her dream trip in China.

By Wang Qibing, special contributor to China Investment   Photo Provided by Ge Liang Translated by Blackhousebar

Minutes later, Wang Meiling, a Chinesereporter in Beijing, sent a message on her Wechat group of colleagues: “TheKenya girl got her visa and headed for the airport with the destination ofBeijing.” It was 5:47 pm Beijing time. A few hours later, Meiling and hercolleagues would meet Seve at the Beijing Capital International Airport andlead the African girl into a real China.


Pretend to be in China

Born in a serene village in Meru, a countyin eastern Kenya, Seveline was very active on social platforms, with the username of Seve Gat’s. Before the trip to China, she had already got 5000 friendson Facebook, which was the maximum number for an ordinary account, and 12000more followers. For an obscure girl whose job was delivering milk, all thisbuzz came from her wild fantasies and the poorly edited photos she uploaded tosocial platforms. On February the 29th this year, she shared a photo of herselfwearing a red dress standing in front of a Kenya Airways plane with the captionin English: “I have left the country to China.”

On March the first, a second photo came outon Facebook. This time she held the handrail and stood on a narrow ledge infront of the precipitous Mount Hua in a blue dress with floral patterns onshoulders and waist. And the caption went: “China…Nice place indeed.”

On March the 2nd, Seve “arrived” inBeijing. She posted a photo in which she stood on the Great Wall, in the reddress she had the day she “left” Kenya. The Caption read: “Wow, enjoyingeverything here.”

She wrapped up her journey to China with agroup photo showing her standing in front of the Hall of Prayer for GoodHarvests in the Temple of Heaven with the caption “Last day of visit. ByeChina.”

The online world has no nationalboundaries. For African young people such as Seve, arts, beauty and distantlands are tempting and longed for. The photos of Seve’s quickly went viral onsocial networks.

But this was an imagined trip. Soon it wasrevealed that Seve hadn’t been to China at all. Her shoddy PS job became aninspiration for internet spoofs. Netizens picked up the bad photo edits andplaced her in a series of remarkable places such as the Time Square in NewYork, next to the presumed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump andamong a group of skydivers.

Some comments were less than friendly. “This girl iscrazy” , “She took drugs.”


Life is beautiful

“Your Life in Photos” was a link Seve hadshared on her social network account. With a click you can find many photos shetook from 2012 to 2016. One of them showed her lying under the blue sky on thegreen grass with her head on her right elbow. The caption read: Life isbeautiful.

For a 26 years old Kenyan girl, life reallywas within pictures, which made it better. Her hometown Meru County, one of the47 counties in Kenya, is located between the Mount Kenya National Park and MeruNational Park. There is a university of science and technology in Meru and Sevewas lucky enough to read in university among the seven children in her family.Wild animals, the snow-covered Kilimanjaro just south the equator and themesmerizing view of Mount Kenya make this country a pristine heaven on earthfor tourists all over the world. Whereas in Seve’s pictures, there is not onlythe life known, but also the life in the future, not only practicality but alsovirtual reality.

Seve is a tall and slim girl. Her eyes arebright and her skin glows like black gold. With such a body in such an age, shehas every reason to love life, love herself and long for a bigger world. Withall the modern technology at hand, how could you blame her for living her dreamin the virtual space? Isn’t she just having dreams like everybody else?

Some dreams are a little bit ridiculous,until they become true. That is what happened to Seve. A Kenyan man named SamGichuru turned the end of one story into the beginning of another.

Sam is the founder and CEO of a Kenyanbusiness incubator called Nailab. He visited Shenzhen, an innovation hub insouth China for five days with a science, technology and business delegation inNovember 2015. Four months later, in March 2016, he saw Seve’s picturescirculated on the internet and made a decision. He posted this message onFacebook: “We have raised enough in cash and kind to send you to China, travel,accommodation (4star), travel insurance and pocket money and probably a visitto the Kenyan embassy to meet the Kenyan Ambassador to China (to beconfirmed-praying). So it’s all up to you Seve Gats.”

Sam called himself a dreamer, which madehim understand and sympathize with what Seve had done and dreamed about.Furthermore, isn’t the incubator business all about helping dreams come true?

In April, Seve left her hometown and wentdown to Nairobi for the first time in her life, to become a white collar internfrom a milk delivery girl.

Seve shared a photo of her passport for thefirst time in her life on Facebook on May the 10th. She posted: “This is notphotoshop. my passport is finally here by courtesy of China here I come…Thanksin advance to Sam Gichuru, Kanana Rita, Beverly Mbeke…and so many others .”

It was not easy to get a tourist visa toChina. A Kenyan girl coming from the northern country was going to travel alonein China with money raised on the internet: the whole business sounded shady.The visa had not been issued by the Chinese embassy in Nairobi for a long time.

Although she had enough money for the trip,Seve couldn’t go as planned and had to delay the plane ticket Sam and herfriends booked for her. But in the meantime, she was having her Chinese dreamin Nairobi: her followers increased dramatically during the two weeks and therewere 21 pages of comments under her post. “She is such a big celebrity  in China,” posted Sam on Facebook toencourage her.


The echo from China

An unyielding hope brings an echo is a Chinesesaying that appeared repeatedly in a 2013 Hong Kong-Chinese martial arts filmdirected and written by Wong Kar-wai.

As Sam saw it, Seve had become an internetcelebrity before going to China. In fact, among the six hundred million Chinesenetizens surfing on the sea of numerous events happened every second on theinternet, few were aware of the longing for China of a Kenyan girl.

The word Kenya is not that strange to theChinese. Type it in the search bar, you would find “travel tips to Kenya”,which would describe in detail personal experience touring the country from howto book flight tickets, hotel room and tour guide to posting pictures ofwildebeest migration. You can also find the word Kenya in a Chinese map: “Kenyacafe” on a street in Dujiangyan, a city in Sichuan province, Kenya wild animalspark, in Nanshan District of Shenzhen in Guangdong province, and Kenya NarokPark in Chongqing. Of course there is also the Kenya Embassy in the famousSanlitun Street in Beijing.

It has become a fashion for the Chinesemiddle class or children from middle class families to experience the grandnature in East Africa. But few of them would imagine that a young woman fromKenya was eager to explore the cultural heritage in China, including the GreatWall and the Temple of Heaven.

In a building on the West Changan Street inBeijing, a magazine oriented to Africa was going to be launched. The editors ofChina Investment learned of Seve’s story from Mr. Kabiru, a consular with theKenya Embassy in China.

For Mr. Kabiru, Seve’s story “reads like amovie or a cartoon for the social media age”. a random action led to abeautiful lie, which was exposed and brought all the embarrassment andfrustrations, and then a twist of fate made the dream become reality andeveryone was happy in the end. But Seve was still one step away from thefulfillment of her dream: since she had never been abroad, how would she travelin such a strange and faraway country by herself? Here Mrs. Xiao came into thepicture. To the editor-in-chief of China Investment, this was the Chinese dreamof an African girl which happened just on time, neither too early nor too late.She felt that a magazine focusing on Sino-African communication should dosomething for the dream-fulfilling project.

Also touched by the story were a fewChinese entrepreneurs. They decided to support Seve’s travel in China throughthe corporate alliance they had formed. Mr. Li Jianhua, the executive chairmanof Bai Tuan Qian Qi industrial Co. Itd told China Investment: “We entrepreneursare dreamers too.” Bai Tuan Qian Qi industrial Co. Itd is a newly establishedplatform for corporation alliance, including six companies and severalentrepreneurs.