Valparaiso – I think the poem is still on the Irish language curriculum in Ireland. If it isn’t, it ought to be. It is code, in Ireland, for dreams of exotic far away places. When the notion of moving to KAUST was first discussed in our household, both my husband and myself spoke about and quoted that old poem. It’s fairly standard fare – a boy watching a ship from far away – Valparaiso – and being tempted to travel there, opting not to, but still as an adult believing that he will someday get to fulfil his dream. (Yes, I know it’s a translation of an English poem. It’s just that it’s the Irish version we all learned in school and that’s the one that is meaningful to us.)

We sat on the comfy couches in the Starbucks in Glencoe (the ones that you have to pounce on as soon as they become free), and spoke about what such a move would entail. We talked about so many things – how the move would impact Noel, how we would have to sell our house (with the newly remodeled kitchen, granite counters, maple cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, but I digress), how I wouldn’t be permitted to drive, how there would be no wine, how we would be giving up a life that we both loved and enjoyed, and on and on and on. We spoke about the issues that concerned us both, we attempted to qualify and quantify the pros and cons,  but we always came back to Valparaiso.

KAUST was born as the vision of King Abdullah and, as a result of his incredible generosity, it has become a reality, moving from concept to concrete in less than a thousand days. There are moments when I am giddy with excitement at the thought of moving there, of being there, of being allowed to be part of such an amazing and ambitious endeavour. Not only do I get to go to Valparaiso, but I get to do so in the company of the people I love most in the world. Not to belabor the point, but we actually get to live in the “cathar bhan”, the white city, and look out every day on the “mara na siochana”, the sea of peace. How great is that?

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