May 16, 2008

Palau Tour 2008: " Expectations"

"I'm Doing Okay. . ." better than expected in fact! Diving in Palau before the start of our round of peformances. Thursday, May 8, 2008

A gorgeous shot of a little fish in Palau courtesy of Bev's underwater camera

Well, we are back from our annual REAL Christian Theater tour--this year we performed in Palau--the fourth time the team has toured there, though technically for everyone except "CK Girl" and me this was everyone's first REAL trip there. For excellent chronological accounts of the weekend with lots of great photos check out Mai's blog or Bev's blog.

In my next two entries I'll be focusing on a couple aspects of this tour that stuck with me. For this entry, my emphasis is "expectations."

Expectations are a funny thing. Sometimes when you've built up grand expectations in your mind, the experience itself seems less than stellar. And often when you're least expecting it, you are surprised by an experience that sails long past your ordinary expectations. I'm finding that there is more joy to be found in embracing the actual experience than in savoring expectations that often disappoint.

In many ways our 2008 tour to Palau was very much about expectations and their collapse. Our last tour to Palau two years ago was so magical, so remarkable in every respect that I fully expected this one to be even better. And it's not that this tour was worse--it was just different. Different than I expected.

First there was the diving. I arrived in Palau, my head full of promises of an unparalleled diving experience--a once in a lifetime, sublime underwater fantasy. And I knew from past experience how amazing mere snorkeling had been in Palau. I expected diving would take that experience to new heights. . .er, depths.

But. . .

The weather was bad (more on that in just a minute) and we couldn't get outside the lagoon to all the legendary sites. Instead we dove just minutes from the marina. The day was overcast, the visibility underneath was limited and dreary. We saw a lot, but it wasn't what we expected. For me however, these dives were the best I've had so far, but not in the way I expected. I feel like I finally turned a corner, finally began to be comfortable underwater. My air consumption improved dramatically (though the fat 100tank surely helped) and I finally felt like I was holding my own and not dragging the rest of the group down. For the first time I surfaced eager to dive again instead of being relived it was over. On these two dives I finally, unexpectedly began to feel at home underwater. My two dives in Palau weren't at all what I expected, in both the good and bad ways.

Suiting up for the dive

My dive buddies: Mai, Bev, & Jessica

Lunchtime! Since we were so close to the dock, they just brought us back to the dive shop for lunch instead of picinicing on a rock island. We ate heartily and then promptly. . .

Fell asleep! This naptime was not staged. We really were asleep when Bev snapped this picture. After a nice nap we headed back out to dive a sunken World War II era Japanese ship!

The four of us pose for for a group shop just above the sunken ship. From left to right that's Mai, Me, Jessica, & Bev--I think. (As you can see it was too murky to get any real decent pictures of the ship as a whole, though Bev has some gorgeous shots of the coral gardens that festoon the every nook and cranny of the ship).

I wasn't the only one with expectations that ran crash-bang into reality. The students in Palau had raised their excitement to fever pitch in expectation of our coming. They remembered the bevy of beautiful actresses and clutch of cool and funny guys from two seasons ago and somehow I think they expected all of those people to come back. Imagine their shock when they saw three young girls--the oldest an 8th gradeer come off the plane Wednesday night? Someone told me they actually overheard someone say "Is that really them?" Our girls took it all in stride. They thought it a great joke than instead of the fantasy girls and stage heroes of 2006 the high school aged fans had been expecting, they got the too-young-for-dating girls of 2008! Perhaps this year's team of intrepid girls knew they'd win hearts of their own. And indeed they did. By Friday thye'd already been treated to lunch by a group of friendly 8th grade girls from the Palau Adventist Elementary School. Rather than basking in the leftover glory of team's past, our girls carved their own in places in the hearts and memories of Palau. They left their own unique and unexpected mark.

The 2006 REAL team in Palau and. . .

. . . .this year's much younger and all-girl REAL team 2008. Only "CK Girl", second from left in this photo and directly below me in the 06 photo was on both teams.

Our REAL team with new friends in Palau on Sunday, May 11, 2008.

Palau itself confounded our expectations. My last trip to Palau had been a journey through a wonderland of God's most beautiful creation--brilliant blue skies, crystalline waters, the rock islands. This time, a passing typhoon left us with torrents of rain, somber gray skies, and rough water beyond the reef that made a rock island tour impossible.

Sunday was a quiet day of simple pleasures we might just as easily have found at home in Saipan. But we were together, bonding as a team, enjoying time with our Palauan friends, finding fun where we could and creating memories we'll treausre. And we were also saving a ton of money. I had expected a rock island tour would cost us nothing beyond a $50-$70 donation for gas--so you can imagine my shock when I discovered that the church would require a $300 deposit to go out on the boat--and most of that deposit we wouldn't get back as a typical fuel cost for a day out the rock islands ran upwards of $250! We'd also have to pay $35 per person to see Jellyfish Lake! I certainly hadn't planned to spend that kind of money and yet probably would have spent it anyway, out of my own pocket so the kids wouldn't miss the classic rock island experience. So perhaps, for the sake of the financial viability of the team (and me!), perhaps it was just as well that the weather was what it was.
Rock Islands up close and in bright sunshine in 2006 and. . .

. . .Rock Islands from a distance and shrouded in rain in 2008.

Boat shot, 2006.

Boat shot, 2008
And the kids did get a Palauan experience that no one else ever had. On Thursday, May 8 while Mai, Bev, Jessica and me were diving, Babs & Veronyka took the team to Dolphin Pacific, an open water dolphin park, and they got to see, touch, and swim with dolphins. From what I've heard that experience exceeded their wildest expectations and I'm glad for that.

"The Treasurer" takes a ride with one of the dolphins at Dolphin Pacific, Palau. Thursday, May 8, 2008.

Here's the reality. In life we actually never really know what to expect. Often we'd like to think we do know exactly how things are going to shake out for us, whether good or bad, but the truth is we really don't know at all what the next day, month, or year--or even minute--holds for each of us. So perhaps its better to spend less time in expectation of the future, and more time fully experiencing the right now.

"I'm jumping in the rain, I'm jumping in the rain, what a glorious feeling, I'm happy again!" Bev, Jessica, and Mai didn't let altered expectations dampen their mood! (Photo taken Sunday morning, May 11, 2008 after a torrential rainstorm aborted our planned morning run).


G-rant said...

What a trip! I'm glad you had such a great time! Have a good summer, Dad.

Mai said...

Expectations have a funny way of coming back to haunt you. I sure had high expectations of diving in Palau.......but was disappointed. But overall, it was still a lot of fun!