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November 23, 2010 / farrelledwards

A Sandy Beach

Written 10 days ago.

Last night I sat on a tiny secluded beach, deep in the South Pacific, with 11 of my closest friends.  The beach is bookended by cliffs and bound by miles of jungle behind it.  Sitting there on the sand in the dark we could hear the waves lapping the shore in front of us and the incredibly alive jungle behind us.

We ate barbecued lobster and fish — lobster that was caught bare-handed and fish that was speared only hours before.  Dwi, our Indonesian dive master, sang popular US songs accompanied by her badly tuned guitar.  We built fires from palm fronds that cast encompassing red light on the beach.

Out in the bay we could see the lights of the tall ship we’ve been traveling aboard.  There are 14 crew and 4 others who are whisking the 12 of us out to unknown adventures.

How did I get here?  Well, it started 14 years ago when I accepted a job with Vance doing golf games for the PC.

Slowly the 12 of us gathered to work for Vance.  Some started before me.  The rest after.  We come from a variety of backgrounds and locations.  We worked well together and consistently delivered good product on time.  There was some suffering and pain, but we were known for finding a way to deliver.  We pointedly built a culture of hard work, lively play and trust in each other.  EA noticed and purchased us 4 years ago.

Vance retired 6 months ago.  The rest of us are still there at EA and make up part of the leadership team there.

Vance decided to end things with a bang and take the old Headgate guys on one last trip.  He’s been planning and scheming for a year, constructing a trip to end all trips.

We’ve been away from home already 9 days.  We’ve been traveling by plane, bus, taxi and tall ship.  We’ve been scuba diving in one of the premiere (and most remote) dive spots in the world.  We’ve seen barracuda, sharks, rays, sea turtles, scorpion fish, tiny pygmy seahorses and teeming sea life.  We have been solo rock climbing above the water.  We have trekked into the jungle, seeing wallabies, birds and some seriously massive spiders.

We are now traveling in the tall ship for a long travel leg.  None of us know where we’re going.  What we know is that we’re eastbound on the southern side of Papua New Guinea and will be at our next destination tomorrow night.  Vance has kept the location and itinerary of the trip a secret, only letting us know what we simply must.

In the months before the trip we knew to get into better shape, do a little rock climbing, get scuba certified and gather some specialized gear.  He’s the only one that knows the whole trip.  For us, it is a slowly revealed surprise.  We never know more than a day in advance what we’re doing.

And as I sat there last night, on that beach, with those men, I felt an overwhelming sense of loss.


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