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塞夫琳十二天中国纪行 Twelve Days in China(1)

By Wang Meiling and He Liwei; Photo Provided by Ge Liang, Li He and Ding Chenhuan; Translated by Blackhousebar

 

Day One: A Dream Come True

□ Time: afternoon, June the 14th, 2016

□ Location: Beijing International Airport

□ Reporter: Wang Meiling

 It was the day when Seveline Kinya arrivedin Beijing. The sky was gloomy and it seemed like it was going to rain. As therepresentatives of China Investment, Li Yan (the magazine’s visual supervisor)and I, together with some people sent by one of the event’s sponsors,ditan360.com, would go to the airport to pick her up. I felt a little anxious.Before we set off, one of my colleagues handed me a coat in case Seveline mightnot be accustomed to the weather in Beijing. We also prepared some flowers anda welcome banner.

Seveline’s flight was expected to arrive atTerminal 3 at 14:50. Four people of the magazine, including me, Li Yan, thephotographer Ge Liang and the reporter from China Radio International (CRI) LuDelun, and a specially invited Swahili translator were welcoming her at theairport.

The flight was delayed. Around 15:15, alarge screen indicated that the flight from Doha to Beijing had arrived. Wehurried to the international arriving passenger exit, raising the banner andthe bouquet as well. Since we had only seen Seveline’s pictures and had nevermet her in person, we were all afraid of missing her in the crowd. Mr. DavidMuturi Kabiru, a counsellor in the Kenyan embassy in China, also came to meetSeveline. He said on the phone that he had arrived, but we did not see him.

A large crowd stood just outside the exitholding name placards: some were written in English and some in Arabic. Manypeople stretched their necks to see further. It was such a unique sight in theinternational arrival hall.

Passengers were coming out and some blackpeople occasionally appeared. We watched closely as they approached, but didn'tfound Seveline. Having stood for an hour, we all became anxious, expecting tosee a black girl rush out and tell us her name was Seveline at any moment.

At 16:15, I saw Mr. Kabiru walking out ofthe exit, together with a tall black girl. That must be Seveline! We rushedtowards them and gave Seveline the bouquet. It turned out that Mr. Kabiruenjoyed diplomatic immunities so he was given free passage to meet Sevelineinside.

Seveline was surprised to see so manyChinese friends welcoming her. We were still strangers and she was a bit lost,but it helped a great deal to have a Swahili translator around.

She was tired after the flight, so we tooksome snapshots and went straight to the parking lot.

It started to rain as we left the airport.The temperature had been decreasing these days and I felt a little cold, so Ihanded the coat to Seveline. She was grateful and thanked me for myconsideration.

The rain pattered on the car windows, butit was warm and comfortable inside the car. We were driving to a Chineserestaurant near the Chegongzhuang Bridge. We wanted to start her journey withBeijing’s local cuisine.

□ Time: evening, June the 14th, 2016

□ Location: Four Generations under One Roof, a Beijing Restaurant

□ Reporter: He Liwei

 As the host, China Investment was holding areception dinner for Seveline in Four Generations under One Roof, a restaurantnamed after a novel by Laoshe, one of the greatest Chinese modern writers (TheEnglish version of the novel is called The Yellow Storm). Four generationsliving under one roof symbolizes the ideals of longevity, harmony, fulfillmentand a large thriving family: a happy picture for the Chinese domestic life. Iwondered what Seveline would think if she knew the meaning of the name of therestaurant.

Seveline looks even prettier in person thanin photos. She had sharp facial features, with beautifully arched eyebrows,double fold eyelids, a straight nose and elegantly curved lips. She was alittle quiet, perhaps due to the long and tiring flight or this new and strangeenvironment.

Seated around a big table were all theguests, including the important “enablers” of Seveline’s journey. First andforemost, there was Mr. Kabiru, counselor in the Kenya embassy in China, whoconveyed the story of Seveline to China Investment. Then there were thesponsors of her trip: Mr. Li Jianhua, executive chairman of the JinheBaituanqianqi Enterprise Co, Ltdw; Mr, Liu Qiping and Mr. Zhuang Shiqi, bothfrom Ditan360.com and served as executive director and financial directorseparately. Also present were Mr. Zhao Changhui, an African specialist withChina Investment and Lu Delun, the invited translator. A young African girlcalled Wairimu Nimo Wanjau was also invited as a guest. She was doing businessin China and her presence made Seveline more relaxed and spirited.

The guests made self-introduction by turnsand everybody expected Seveline to say something.

Seveline stood up. She first thanked themagazine for inviting her to visit China, and then gave a little speech toanswer people’s questions and satisfy their curiosity about her. It seemed thatshe knew what people were wondering: she lived in a place so far away fromChina, a country she had never been to, why chose tourist attractions in Chinaas a background for her photoshopped images?

She said that she grew up with many thingsthat were “cheap and durable” and her mother told her that they were made inChina.

So the answer was simpler than what mostpeople had imagined.

Born in 1989, Seveline is 26 years old.During these over twenty years, China has developed in to a manufacture giant,which shaped a young African’s world view in a subtle way.

The atmosphere of the dinner table wasconvivial. With our help, Seveline managed to pick up some food with chopsticksand put it into her bowl. But she didn’t really eat it.

She also said something that summarized thespirit of whole event very well: being able to come to China made her realizethat if you had dreams in your life, you should work hard to fulfill them.

She checked in Hunan Hotel that night.