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Peter lived for nearly a half-decade in China, including two as a Peace Corps volunteer, and is the author of Socrates in Sichuan: Chinese Students Search for Truth, Justice and the (Chinese) Way. It is the intention of his blog to foster the sort of intercultural understanding necessary for long term relationships.
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Not in China Anymore    

By Peter V
2914 Views | 7 Comments | 6/28/2013 4:16:30 PM

There is scene in the Chinese smash hit movie Lost in Thailand, about a business trip to Chiang Mai gone awry, where the main character has arrived at the Bangkok airport. Wishing to get to his intended destination as quickly as possible, he jumps into a cab and frantically urges the driver to beep his horn to get the car front to move. The cab driver tells him to relax. He is in Thailand. There is no beeping in Thailand. They will get there when they get there.

The scene goes a long way to explaining the success of this low budget film, in which the stress-free and spiritually oriented state of mind one encounters in the Land of Smiles is presented as part of the antidote to the frenetic, overly materialistic conception of life in China (which is pretty much indistinguishable these days from life in the West).

The scene also helps me answer a question that is currently puzzling me. I am seated at the Tiger Kingdom, a bar in one of the more touristy sections of Chiang Mai, having dinner with my friend Paul, a veteran of SE Asia travel, and his Thai girlfriend Lanna. At first glance, it would appear that nothing particularly novel or radical is taking place. I am seated on the outdoor patio of a restaurant looking out at a river. It is nighttime. A band is playing. We are eating and drinking. Sure, there are signs of the different Asian cultures: the beer is Chang instead of Qingdao, and the food might be Phad Thai noodles instead of Kung Pao chicken. But on the surface there is no reason a very similar scene could not be taking place in Chengdu. Yet the feeling is a radically different one from the one I had when I boarded the plane in China.

We think moods are subjective things, induced by our will alone and completely within our control. This is why when we encounter someone in a foul mood we tell them to simply get themselves out of it. Or else, if we are more scientifically minded, we believe moods to be chemically induced, and if not in our control at least treatable with modern medicine so that a daily pill is all that is required to put us in the proper frame of mind.

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger had a different idea. For him, moods were not subjectively created but objectively encountered. They were public things, no more in our control than the weather, autonomous mechanisms that operate according to their own internal laws.

If it sounds strange on first hearing, the theory that we don’t generate moods but discover them is the best way I know to explain the phenomenon of a place simply "feeling" different. Moreover, it makes sense.The state of the body invariably generates a certain amount of psychic energy. This is why, for example, we can feel a friend’s low energy when he is sick. If you are always in a stressful, high pressure situation, you are going to give off a stressful, high pressure type of energy. Put a 1.4 billion people in that situation, and you have, well, China—a nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown. By contrast, the mass energy produced by simply slowing down and taking it easy ought to be similarly palpable. Indeed, the difference between these two states of mind is so vast I am surprised there is not some giant energy disturbance at the Thailand-China border

We have a phrase in America to describe this transition: “not in Kansas anymore.” The saying comes from the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz." In it, a young girl named Dorothy is transported via a tornado from her Midwestern farm to a strange and mystical land known as "Oz." After she arrives she stares at her new surroundings--the strange animals, unusual foliage, the wondrous sky and vibrant colors—and says to her dog, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Taking this scene from an iconic American film as its basis, the urban dictionary defines "not in Kansas anymore" as "to be in a places that is strange and mysterious, outside of one's comfort zone."

As if he’s read my mind, my friend Paul turns to me and says, “Got the felling you’re not in China anymore?”

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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(Showing 1 to 7 of 7) 1
#2013-06-28 18:27:39 by panda2009 @panda2009

"not in Kansas anymore"
Every time, I have to be put back in Wuhan from my plesure short time journeies. But I really love those days -"not in Wuhan anymore"

#2013-06-28 18:51:32 by Tyler72 @Tyler72

The more I read about Thailand the more I think I definitely need to visit. It's possibly my second favorite cuisine in the world after just simple, grilled, fresh caught seafood (ala S. Florida) and of course Ty ( Tai ) is actually my middle name, LOL... I just need co-adventurers to take that trip with me. Hmmm where might I find such like minded people?

LOL, we should have a group trip planning channel in here somewhere...

#2013-06-28 22:07:07 by kingm @kingm

While it may feel like others influence my mood it is ultimately my responsibility.
I can choose how I respond to others. A single slow deep breath can change a mood.

When you say " If you are always in a stressful, high pressure situation, you are going to give off a stressful, high pressure type of energy. Put a 1.4 billion people in that situation, and you have, well, China—a nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown." I could not match this with my experiences in China. I was often amazed by people who were peaceful and at ease in situations I would have found very difficult.

In the West a haircut can be relaxing but in China when it can go with a head, neck and shoulder massage, it can be bliss.

I think China is much closer to the mood and spirit of Thailand than it is to the West.

#2013-07-02 18:58:47 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

@kingm: Are you sure we are talking about the same country? World's second largest economy, 1.4 billion people, 5,000 years history? In any case, these were not my impressions of China; they were from the director of the movie, who said that the actions of the main character in feeling under great pressure from his job and being unable to balance work and family "represented the majority of the people, who are chasing after fame and desire, then becoming successful. That's what most of us do." The stress and pressure reflects the feelings of my Chinese friends, from college graduates to aging parents, which again is why I think the movie was so successful.

#2013-07-02 23:14:46 by sandy339 @sandy339

You sound depressed in this blog, you will get what you want when you get there? haha, Good Luck !
Thanks for your like for China.

#2013-07-05 13:24:12 by kingm @kingm

@woaizhongguo
We are talking about the some country but we probably see it through very different eyes. You encounter Chinese people who are under great pressure in your work. Traditionally (outside of the cultural revolution) education is very important- almost life or death. I know from other blogs that you would have difficulty seeing China the way I see it because I am one of those men who carries the purse/handbag for his Chinese partner.

In China I have met materially wealthy people who are spiritually poor and I have materially poor people who are spiritually rich. "Frenetic" is the last word I would have used to describe most of the people I have met although it may be an appropriate description for some Chinese students.

You speak of China's 5000 year history. This creates a depth to China that other countries simply don't have. There have been good times and bad times in the past. There will be good times and bad times in the future. There needs to be a limit to population size. There needs to be a limit to pollution. China has the ability to endure hardship and think long term. The Great Wall is a great example. If China cannot cope with the current state of "interesting times" then no country can.

It is inevitable that some Chinese people are buckling under pressure but the country as a whole is not on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

#2013-09-17 08:50:34 by RobertB @RobertB

Perfect article. I would like to share my experiences too.
Today I felt low on energy and self esteem.
Luckily I am on holiday now. So, I did exercises. You know, those that you invent by watching indian Yoga Chinese kungfu, american action. whatever.
All remade by favorite comedy loser type of hero, who despite all his failures manages to outwit and outrun everyone else, hardly notices it and says:
"Where are my noodles?"
I started to feel better after that. Then I had coffee. Tea.
Finally I studied a bit. I lied down.
I got up, after all I am on holiday and can lie down any time for as long as I wish so I can as well get up and tidy the room.
Finally this evening after having watched some comedies and reading and writing articles I came across this super interesting topic.
Who does not want to know about mood? After all, who never looked at his/her object of desire and thought:: "does he/she feel the same?"
How can I influence the desire?
Once in a distant country, long time ago, in the same Galaxy I met a girl.
We sat together and had really silent moment.
I felt, that everything was dividing our worlds, she was richer than me, so I could not give nothing.
I only could give her feeling of peace.
I found it in scant quantity inside my soul. I started to work on it to expand it. It soon after hard work became larger and finally the whole room was engulfed by it. Then I expanded it further.
The whole universe. It was peace and love for her. I did not want to ask any leading questions. You know they are not accepted by courts in US, so why should I treat them as valid?
To my amazement my girl, told me herself:: "It is extremely peaceful and quiet here. ".
I knew that my reality was not a fake reality. It was my reality.
now common to both of us.
So, maybe more things can be created like that. Also, the mood can be influenced too.
It is the idea and energy after all.
Idea and acceptance of it. Then energy, faith that it can happen. Some imagination , that is pretending that it is already happening.
After all believe consists of two words: " be" live". Become alive. So, make it into existence. Something that at first is not.
I am going to sleep now, It is too late. Good luck to you and have sunny, lucky and happy moods.

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