This may be the most unusual yet heartwarming story you will ever read.
It starts with an American journalist having his phone stolen at a bar in New York, and ends with him becoming a celebrity in China and forming a lifelong “bromance” with the man who had his phone.
In 2014, BuzzFeed writer Matt Stopera was drinking with friends in New York when his mobile phone was swiped off the table.
A year later, when going through photos on his new phone with friends, weird photos began appearing – including snaps of a man with orange trees in China.
A shocked Stopera discovered his stolen phone had ended up in China, where whoever had his phone was logged into his iCloud account.
The writer went to Apple and had the phone taken offline, rendering it useless. He then wrote about the strange experience for Buzzfeed.
Within hours, the story was translated and put on the Chinese version of Twitter, Weibo, and began trending.
Stopera’s story became the top trending article in China and he was bombarded with tweets from people offering to help find the man in the mysterious photos.
Stopera became famous in China and the man with his stolen phone, dubbed ‘Brother Orange’, was located.
The two men exchanged messages for weeks before Brother Orange invited Stopera to visit him in China.
At the same time, Stopera’s fame in China continued to rise. Fans messaged him saying they were learning English from the videos and photos he posted on Weibo.
When he arrived in China, the reception is nothing short of remarkable.
Everyone on Weibo keeps on giving me these side-eyeing Shiba Inu emojis. I love all my Chinese fans! pic.twitter.com/GH9SfsepzV
— Matt Stopera (@mattstopera) February 23, 2015
Started signing autographs and my catch phrase is “You rock, never change.” I also dropped my last name and only go by Matt (like Madonna). — Matt Stopera (@mattstopera) March 18, 2015
He and Brother Orange were mobbed by fans, photographers and journalists, and whisked away into a waiting car.
Over the next week, the men form an incredible bond.
“I’m realizing the language and cultural barriers aren’t such a big thing anymore,” Stopera wrote.
“It’s 2015 and this is the world we live in. I am so happy.”
Stopera even met Brother Orange’s family, who planted an orange tree to symbolise their friendship.
The pair conducted press conferences together in matching t-shirts, visited mud baths and famous soccer players’ houses and signed autographs.
As Stopera’s week-long visit came to an end, he reflected on his new lifelong friendship with Bro Orange, and they both held back tears as they headed to the airport.
“Who would have ever thought a stolen iPhone would have led to such an INSANE story and a true cross-cultural friendship?” Stopera wrote.
“This is more than just a series of crazy, random coincidences that changed our lives — it’s fate.”