How to have an incredibly imperfect 10th wedding anniversary in Hangzhou (just like us)

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When you’re getting ready to remember 10 years together with the person you love most in the world, you want it all to be as perfect as that diamond wedding ring. After all, isn’t 10 years of marriage called the “diamond anniversary”?

But the reality doesn’t always sparkle like that most coveted of all jewels, just as John and I discovered this past Saturday when we set out to celebrate our 10th anniversary together. Here’s how our day ended up losing some of its luster:

1. Celebrate it right smack in the middle of the hottest days of summer.

Notice the sweat gleaming on my face and neck? Welcome to Hangzhou in the summer!
Notice the sweat gleaming on my face and neck? Welcome to Hangzhou in the summer!

Our marriage anniversary is July 26, only three days after July 23 (also known as by the Chinese as dàshǔ or 大署, the “Greater Heat”). At this time of the year, the entire city feels like one huge sultry public sauna that you can never leave (unless you duck into an air-conditioned store or home).

As soon as John and I left our apartment, the heat and humidity enveloped us like a huge wet rag — and it wasn’t long before my brand-new fuchsia T-shirt was dotted with beads of sweat. Not an auspicious start to our celebration!

2. Arrive at the West Lake just as a huge thunderstorm descends upon the city.

Taking shelter from the storm
Taking shelter from the storm

After indulging in a little pampering at a local hair salon (a up-do) and a makeup shop (where a pro did my makeup for the day) John whisked me off to the most romantic locale in all of Hangzhou: the West Lake. Our goal? To visit the very bench on Su Causeway where we had our first kiss on July 26 in 2002.

But not long after we reached the scenic shores of the lake, fringed with the rich green patches of lotus plants studded with pale pink flowers, an ominous gray cloud darkened the sky. Thunder soon rumbled right in, followed lightning and a monumental downpour. When I say “monumental downpour”, I mean 90 mm worth of rain (that’s a little over 3.5 inches) in one hour!

We sought shelter just in time in a public teahouse beside the lake, and were trapped there for almost an hour, witnessing nature’s own version of fireworks boom across the lake (I screamed when the lightning hit a nearby tree) as the landscape around us became soaked in rain.

Then, because we needed to hustle to make our 6pm dinner reservation at a hotel, we splashed our way down Beishan Road through the runoff water that burst up from the drains beside the road and cascaded over the sidewalk right into the West Lake. It reminded me of all those times when I was a kid and insisted on going creek-walking — except you don’t usually go creek-walking with your hair and makeup done, all dolled up in your new shirt and long black skirt.

Even worse — the rain revealed leaks in my own umbrella, scattering droplets of rain all over me (including more than a few that conspired to ruin my nice up-do and makeup…thank goodness they didn’t!).

You might wonder, “Why didn’t they just flag down a taxi or take the bus?” Well, as anyone who has ever lived in Hangzhou knows, it’s almost impossible to flag down a taxi on rainy days. Plus, the traffic on Beishan Road was locked in gridlock and plodded along so slow we actually walked faster than the buses themselves!

3. Due to a downpour of seemingly Biblical proportions, walk into the five-star hotel where you’re going to have dinner with at least half of your outfit completely soaked

I know I'm smiling here, but believe me, most of my skirt and all of my shoes are soaking wet!
I know I’m smiling here, but believe me, most of my skirt and all of my shoes are soaking wet!

There’s nothing that says class quite like strolling into the glittering lobby of a five-star hotel looking as if you crawled out of one of the drainage pipes beside the West Lake. The Assistant Manager on duty — a willowy blonde dressed in a perfectly-pressed suit jacket and pencil skirt — stared at us as we hurried across the lobby and up the stairs, and I couldn’t tell whether it was because we were that rare AMWF couple in China or because our shoes left little puddles behind us wherever we walked.

4. Due to same downpour, spend over an hour awaiting the rest of your friends to arrive.

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Four of our guests — more than half of our table — took over an hour to make it to the hotel because the downpour brought Hangzhou’s traffic to a screeching halt. This photo (with me putting on a smile while my friend Caroline plays with her mobile phone) pretty much sums up how we spent that hour at a very empty table for seven.

5. Realize it’s the most imperfect anniversary celebration you’ve ever had — and enjoy yourselves regardless.

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Between the sweltering heat and all of the mayhem caused by a sudden downpour, we had one tumultuous afternoon. No carefree strolling beside the lake, no stolen kisses at our old bench on Su Causeway, no confident entrance into the hotel. Our shoes were still totally wet and squishy. The rain even drenched a classic photo of us that John carried in his wallet.

But we had five of our friends with us, as we dined on some of the most sumptuous Thai dishes I’ve ever sampled in my life in one of the most glamorous restaurants in town. Maybe we didn’t get the perfect day we hoped for — but as I helped myself to another creamy mouthful of green curry vegetables and admired the mahogany-toned wooden accents in the space, I couldn’t help but think that, for the moment, it was just perfect enough.

(P.S.: For those of you curious as to where we had our anniversary dinner, it was at the lovely  Sawasdee Thai Restaurant in Hangzhou — one of my favorite dining spots in the city.)

Have you ever experienced a less-than-perfect celebration?

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20 thoughts on “How to have an incredibly imperfect 10th wedding anniversary in Hangzhou (just like us)

  • July 28, 2014 at 8:06 am
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    lol! I actually went to that restaurant a few months ago and remember the exact blond manager you’re referring to.
    Anyway, congratulations!!!

    Reply
  • July 28, 2014 at 8:23 am
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    Imperfect makes the BEST kind of stories, like this one! Just perfect! Congratulations, Joss and John! xxoo

    Reply
  • July 28, 2014 at 9:12 am
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    Haha.. I guess even the elements wanted to share in the joy of your 10th wedding anniversary with John though they could have had done it in a more polite way!

    Never mind, the trick was to enjoy whatever came your way. If it rained, let it rained…

    In the circumstance, I think, you and John did well to enjoy the yummy Thai dinner with friends in a lovely restaurant!

    That will be one anniversary you will look back to with fondness in due course of time (and never forget!) because of all the challenge nature threw at you!

    Good thing you refused to kowtow!

    Haha again…

    Reply
  • July 28, 2014 at 9:44 am
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    Well that’s one anniversary you’ll never forget 🙂

    Congratulations to both you and John !

    Reply
  • July 28, 2014 at 10:25 am
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    You have ten years of marriage and lots of love and support to celebrate. Your ability to smile through the rainstorms is one reason you reached the one decade mark. Best wishes for another ten.

    Reply
  • July 28, 2014 at 10:28 am
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    I love what people call ” imperfection”, that’s what create memories!
    I a sure you had a blast and those stones in your way made it a more memorable day!

    Congrats once again for those wonderful 10 years!

    Reply
  • July 28, 2014 at 11:16 am
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    I’m so sorry the weather was less than ideal, but it looks like you had such a wonderful dinner. I love your new glasses and your hair! One day you and Jun will look back at your 10th anniversary and will probably remember the rain, but you’ll also remember how worthwhile it was to risk the elements to celebrate your big day. Happy anniversary!

    Reply
  • July 28, 2014 at 8:29 pm
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    It will make for a great story to remember on your 20th anniversary 🙂

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  • July 28, 2014 at 10:01 pm
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    There is no such thing as a perfect person or perfect life or perfect anything!!!

    Reply
  • July 28, 2014 at 10:20 pm
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    I think the weather was like ‘they are such a perfect couple, let’s give them something not-perfect’ 🙂 but you had good time, you have each other and that’s what makes every day perfect 🙂 congratulations again! 🙂

    Reply
  • July 29, 2014 at 1:01 am
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    “The Assistant Manager on duty — a willowy blonde dressed in a perfectly-pressed suit jacket and pencil skirt — stared at us as we hurried across the lobby and up the stairs, and I couldn’t tell whether it was because we were that rare AMWF couple in China or because our shoes left little puddles behind us wherever we walked.”

    Seems even more weird than Singapore…at least in Singapore only receptionists at clinics serving expats happen to be blonde…dont they have enough Chinese trained to be managers. Believe me, I am very pro-foreign worker..but will a town such as Dillard, Georgia accept an Asian American manager let alone a foreign Asian manager although he might speak perfect English? I think not.

    Reply
  • July 29, 2014 at 3:27 am
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    Love your hair!

    Although it’s probably not what you expected, the rain will probably make this an even more memorable anniversary.

    Reply
  • July 29, 2014 at 2:09 pm
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    Talk about first world problems!

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  • July 30, 2014 at 9:45 am
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    Sorry to hear about the rain. Happy anniversary!

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  • July 30, 2014 at 7:43 pm
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    Congratulations! Well, the weather could have been better… but it could have been worse? ^^
    Certainly a memorable anniversary though, and makes a good story to tell. 🙂

    Reply
  • July 31, 2014 at 10:49 am
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    Congratulations! Don’t let the hot weather keep you from the joy!

    Reply
  • July 31, 2014 at 11:07 am
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    Congratulations on the wedding anniversary 🙂 Here’s hoping to many more to come 😀 I guess its also important to have a sense of humor when things go wrong, and rainy days often produce unexpected surprises.

    Reply
  • July 31, 2014 at 7:58 pm
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    Congratulations. Isn’t life imperfect and in a weird way isn’t that great? Sorry things didn’t work out as you planned but I’m sure you still had a memorable anniversary.

    Reply
  • August 1, 2014 at 6:19 pm
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    Well, if you got married on July 26th then I’m afraid you will always celebrate hot and humid anniversaries, at least the ones you celebrate in China 😀

    Wow, 10 years! Congratulations!

    Reply
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