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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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This is Only a Test    

By Peter V
3520 Views | 7 Comments | 12/4/2015 3:09:59 PM

[Readers may be interested (but not required) to read the previous blogposts in this series, which describes a visit to America by one exceptionally daring Chinese woman.] Don't Do This with a Chinese Woman and First Sight



Recently a friend, herself involved in cross-cultural dating, asked what I thought the most important element in a relationship was. I rattled off a list of the usual suspects—intellectual compatibility, shared hobbies, physical attraction—but she was unsatisfied. She wasn’t interested in what general characteristics any person would look for in a partner. She wanted to know if I had any specific things I sought after in a woman. I reflected for a second and then said one word: camping.



Pitching a tent, sleeping on the ground, building a campfire, and peeing out in nature: these are things I require the woman I am going to date not only to have an interest in but to derive an unnatural amount of enjoyment from. There are certain deal breakers in any long-term relationship, issues about which if the criteria are not met the relationship will not get off the ground, or at least not fly very far if it does get aloft. For some, there is a religious test. I lived in Utah for a long time, and most Mormons would only consider dating and marrying a member of their own faith. One friend of mine insists on a level of political compatibility and refuses to date anyone sympathetic to the opposing political party, while another friend requires his spouse be a vegan, but will settle for a vegetarian. Each of those requirements is rational in its own way, or at least as rational as one can be in love.



I don’t have a political, religious, or dietary litmus test. But I do consider a camping trip a necessary preliminary before advancing a relationship to a more serious stage. As I reflect on why, I can discover several reasons for this requirement. First, the ability to complete a successful camping trip together demonstrates a shared value. Seeing nature as important, gathering spiritual strength and solace from being in its presence: this in itself is sort of a religious attitude, an issue about which it is natural enough to desire compatibility. Also, since it usually includes some hiking, a camping trip is a place where a woman can demonstrate a certain basic level of physical ability, an important trait because I am a fairly active person. Finally, camping is a character test. If you can’t react in a good spirit to being a little dirty and a little cold when the benefits of being put out are so obvious, then chances are you are a complainer by nature. Conversely, if you can endure these difficulties with a degree of grace, you will likely whether life’s countless inconveniences in a similar manner. Which is to say that a camping trip is a great way of weeding out the dreaded high-maintenance girlfriend. And unlike an orgasm, a love of nature is not something that can be consistently feigned. For me, then, a camping trip is an ethical, aesthetic, and physical compatibility test all rolled into one.



And so it was no accident that I chose a camping trip as our primary activity during this visit. The fact that she still decided to fly over after learning of my plan gave her points in my book, since most Chinese women would have kicked me off their QQ on even hearing the proposal. Of course it is not only the majority of Chinese women who turn their noses up at the prospect of a camping holiday. Many Americans as well question the sanity of this whole outdoor enterprise I regularly engage in.



Indeed, I have more than once been asked to explain the point of sleeping outdoors on the ground in the cold? I don’t know how to answer except to point up at the sky when you step outside your tent at night to take a pee and look up at the star-filled backdrop one simply cannot see except here, in the midst of nature. But of course this is not going to convince anyone who does not have an enlarged prostate and for whom such events are not already quasi-mystical experiences. So I usually follow Wittgenstein’s advice and say nothing on those matters on which nothing can be said. But it is important that my partner understand my silence on this matter.



And in truth I do not completely disagree with those who view camping as an absurd exercise is masochism. Indeed, when I reflect on the difficulty involved in completing the most simple of tasks while camped outdoors, I question my own sanity in undertaking the enterprise. Consider for example the unnatural amount of energy that must go into getting a cup of coffee in the morning. At home, I can simply pre-program my coffee maker so that the scent of the brewing beverage reaches my nose as I awaken, and then stumble the twenty steps to the kitchen in my underwear to grab my morning brew.



By contrast, satisfying the morning caffeine urge while camping is incredibly more complicated, and certainly cannot be completed in one’s skivvies.  The whole process starts by unzipping the sleeping bag, throwing on socks, sweatshirt, long pants, hat and gloves, and then unzipping a couple of tent zippers, performing the acrobatics of putting on shoes on and then stepping outside, making a mad dash to the car, pulling out the gear box containing the stove, cooking utensils, and lighter, extracting the other box containing coffee and filters, assembling the stove, filling a pot with water and then standing outside freezing waiting for the water to boil. I am not sure sex is worth that much trouble, much less a cup of coffee. But inevitably it is the best cup of coffee I’ve had in a long while, even if it’s instant, because for some perverse reason our enjoyment of an object or activity increases in proportion to the difficulty required to achieve it.



"Is it worth it?" is a reasonable question to ask. Can any lover truly justify the pursuit of his object of passion? Should he? What is important is not whether you my dear reader understand this perverse interest of mine but the fact that I had to explain none of this to her. Whether it was cooking breakfast in the cold morning, quietly reading by a river or sitting around a campfire at night, she understood, she spoke the language of the outdoors like a native, even though she had never visited the territory and this was her first—but hopefully not her last—camping trip.


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
#2015-12-04 15:41:35 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

I confess Peter, you played a clever trick on me with this blog. The trick was in the title. You see I mistakenly thought the title was intended to tell me that the blog post wasn't for real; that you were only testing whether your blog still functioned as it should. I therefore ignored it while it lay there waiting for the chance to shine. My apologies.

I once was an avid camper, something I got from my father, who loved camping and all things outdoors, And I continued to enjoy it well into adulthood. I can vouch for the fact that a woman who passes the test of camping is likely to be a winner.

However, both my first wife and second loved camping, and my second wife loved perhaps the single most appealing aspect of camping which is the endless opportunities for outdoor sex. So in that sense they were both winners, especially #2, but I am not with either of them today, which stands as proof that camping alone will not guarantee success in a relationship.

But I hope in your case the events you've described are simply the precursor to a lifetime together enjoying life in the great outdoors, and hopefully partaking of that truly enjoyable adventure of exploring sex under the open sky.

I wish you the best with this wonderful lady.

#2015-12-04 16:39:25 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

Peter
I raised my 3 kids on camping - both in the UK and in Australia and they are all the better for it. There is quite simply NOTHING like a nice camping holiday. You can stick your fancy hotels and buffet-breakfasts along with the pink-gins served by the swimming pool
Camping near the beach, catching fresh fish for supper and waking up in the early morning to the smell of bacon and eggs being cooked by fellow campers is my perfect idea of heaven!
Not only MY idea of heaven either - my ex-wife loved it and so did my kids. It's just a shame that living in a Chinese 'inner-city' doesn't offer the same camping opportunities right now - but it's certainly something that's on my 'bucket-list' and something I intend to do again just as soon as the opportunity arises

Enjoy !

#2015-12-04 19:16:50 by Barry1 @Barry1

@woaizhongguo

A very interesting article, thanks Peter. One that I personally found much more satisfying than your previous one, where for some reason you continually hammered home the importance of sexual attraction in a relationship, ahead of everything else, as per the following:

"my belief that unless there is a primal physical pull, unless the desire to rip each other’s clothes off is front and center, exists in a way that transcends all other appetites, common sense and social decorum, in other words, unless she lights you up like a Christmas tree, a relationship is a weakened, crippled thing."

But surely true grit and camping ability falls ahead of everything else, sexual activities included! (rofl)

Seriously though, I very much relate and agree with your thoughts. This is why Tina and I upon our first meeting together in China went straight from Chengdu Airport to Mt Emei, hiking with our fully laden backpacks up the 10,000 or so steps of this imposing peak! During this arduous multi-day trip, each of us were both consciously as well as subconsciously assessing each other. Were we strong and robust enough? Were we bold and adventurous enough? Were we whingers, whiners or complainers?

We each fortunately passed the test the flying colours and the rest is history.

In any case, Peter - good on you, mate. I very much look forward to reading further instalments of this budding and hopefully wonderfully successful relationship. (y)

#2015-12-10 17:44:47 by anonymous14262 @anonymous14262

@woaizhongguo
I have to say camping trip is really a good idea to know each other. You can know a person you may not know during a coffee or tea conversation. Especially for me, compare to having a tea or coffee, I would like to see a man working something, very charming :-)

Being safe is very important. I remember I went to climbing mountain with my ex-husband when we just were friends many years ago, we had been robbed. He was beaten badly. But he was trying to protect me. That did impress me.

#2015-12-15 22:52:05 by anonymous14285 @anonymous14285

Peter, good article, lots of information here. I love camping as well and feel it is a good way to just get away and be oneself.

@anonymous14262

Did this crime of beating and robbing take place in China?

More importantly did you stand by and watch him get beat while trying to protect you or did you try to come to his defense?

#2015-12-16 18:32:21 by anonymous14290 @anonymous14290

@anonymous14285
That story happened in 2000, yes at that time crime of robbing did take place in China.

There were five men robbing us, I can only watch them to beat him because one man took hold of me and I can't do nothing even screaming. They took everything worthy a single money then run away. We were lucky that things didn't get worse...

#2016-03-07 01:01:24 by Macchap @Macchap

@Peter V

Peter, how did it go? Was it a success?

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