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An American Family in Oz: Magical Night at the Opera House

By Christopher J. Robbins

September 25, 2018

Greetings from sunny Oz.  Maria, Johnny and I are enjoying the warming September Spring days here in beautiful Sydney.  Life is good and getting better by the minute. Our family enjoys blessings stacked like cordwood and strive to live a life full of purpose and laden with gratitude.

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Maria and I recently attended a show at the Sydney Opera House on a Friday night. We watched the original Walt Disney movie “Mary Poppins” accompanied by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra who played the soundtrack live as the movie was shown.

It. Was. Magical.

I hadn’t watched the movie since I was a child and it brought back a nostalgic wave of pleasant childhood memories. The Orchestra performed beautifully and injected zest and energy into the performance.  This was a monthly date-night for Maria and Me….Johnny stayed home with one of his teachers from his pre-school, Ms. Steph.  She and Johnny have bonded and they enjoy their time together.  The evening was beautiful (64 F) and the Stars were shining brightly in the Southern Sky; the ferry ride to and from the Opera House was spectacular.  In a way, it was all part of the show and added to the joy of a memorable evening.
There is something to be said for having something beautiful to look at everyday. For that, I thank my wife Maria for marrying me. In addition to beautiful people, beautiful designs and artwork enliven the senses and inject vitality and inspiration into our lives.  In Sydney we are lucky to be home to one of the most distinctive, most beautiful architectural masterpieces ever envisioned and constructed by humankind: The Sydney Opera House.

Australians have a propensity (“tendency” for our Adair Heights pals) to hold worldwide design competitions for many of their most important projects:  Parliament House in Canberra, City of Canberra (Capital of Australia) and the Sydney Opera House.  In the mid 1950’s the New South Wales (NSW) government solicited designs for a new opera house from architects around the world.  233 designs were submitted originating from 32 different countries. Ultimately the Danish Architect, Jorn Utzon, emerged as winner in 1957.  What is not widely known is that Utzon’s radical design was initially rejected by the panel of judges and saved by a renowned architect with a connection to Michigan, Eero Saarinen.  Eero was born in Finland, then grew up in Bloomfield Hills where is father, Elliel, was the Dean of the Cranbrook Academy of Art.  Eero designed the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, and Washington Dulles International Airport Terminal among others. Eero Saarinen & Associates office was located at the intersection of W. Long Lake Road and Woodward Avenue in Bloomfield Hills. Eero practiced there until his death in 1961. RIP Eero Saarinen.

Construction of the Opera House got underway in 1959. Its original budget was $7 Million dollars and was scheduled to open on Australia Day, Jan 26, 1963.  Fourteen years and $102 Million dollars later the project was completed.   Utzon left the project in 1966 over disputes with the NSW government and NEVER returned to Australia to see the finished building.  Like many rule-breaking, standard-shattering futuristic designs, Jorn Utzon’s design was ridiculed throughout its construction.  Jorn’s design was so far ahead of the state-of-the-art construction methods at the time, new methods and materials had to be invented to build it.  Including a very special epoxy adhesive called Araldite that was required to bond the pre-cast concrete ribs that form the “shells” of the opera house.

The Sydney Opera House officially opened on October 20, 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II.  Ultimately the story has a terrific ending: Jorn Utzon was finally honored with the Utzon Room overlooking Sydney Harbor being named in his honor in 2004 and the Sydney Opera House was designated a World Heritage Site in 2007.  The Sydney Opera House stands in the pantheon of great human building achievements like the Pyramids of Egypt and Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.  If it weren’t for the creative brilliance of Jorn Utzon, the wisdom of Eero Saarinen and the utility of Araldite™ epoxy adhesive, the Opera House would have never come to fruition.  I have never photographed any man-made object so frequently in my life, and I NEVER grow tired of photographing the Opera House.  Its beauty gives me daily inspiration.

That’s all for now:  Catch you around in a fortnight!

Aussie Travel Financial Factoids

Currency Exchange Rate:   $1 US buys $1.37 AUD, Source Bloomberg

Roundtrip Airfare Detroit-Sydney : $1,441, Delta Airlines 1 stop in LA, Source Expedia

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Christopher J Robbins was born in 1968, the last of eleven children of Paul and Jean Robbins of Saint Clair Michigan. He grew up on Belle River Road…. affectionately referred to as Dog Patch (Courtesy of Uncle Joe McKay RIP). He was raised by Jean E. Robbins and Paul L. Robbins and 10 older siblings. Baptized, 1st Communion, 1st Confession and confirmation at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church. Graduated St. Clair High School in 1986. Played football (OG and LB) for Benny where we had < 5 pass plays in O; Quiz Bowl Team, National Honor Society, School Play (Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Mr. Harrington). Attended Eastern Michigan University 1986-1988. Transferred to University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in Fall of 1988 to pursue Chemical Engineering degree. Graduated UM in May 1991 B.S. Chemical Engineering. Received job offers from: General Electric, NCR, Chevron (El Segundo California); Chevron, Richmond, CA. Exxon Chemical: Linden, NJ. Dow Chemical, Freeport TX. Exxon Company USA, Baton Rouge, LA, Exxon Chemical, Baton Rouge, LA. Accepted offer from Exxon Company USA, Baton Rouge, LA. Worked for Exxon Company USA, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 1991-1993. Unit Engineer in Wax and Lube Refinery Unit. Survivor of multiple Mardi Gras’. Many Scuba Excursions: Florida Panhandle. Lots of Crawfish Boils. Acquired 1979 Porsche 911 Carrera, Copper Brown Metallic, Cork Leather Interior. Drove it coast-to-coast. Worked for Elf Atochem North America in Philadelphia, PA 1993-1996 as Technical Service Applications Engineer. Specialized in organic chemicals…specifically nitrogen-based Amine chemistry. Supplied technical assistance to customers and sales forces throughout the world. Boiler Water Corrosion Control, Runaway Polymerization Reaction Control etc. Brew Master: Quay Street Brewing Company, Port Huron, MI. 1996-1998. Developed recipes for several beers including Robbins Red Ale, Port Huron-Style Kolsch and Pilsner, Ginger Beer and many others. Substitute Teacher in East China School District: 1998-1999. Surveyor and Civil Engineer (Emphasis on Construction Engineering) with Spalding DeDecker Associates, Rochester Hills, MI: 1999-2014 Self-Taught Civil Engineer. Became a Licensed Professional Engineer in State of Michigan, 2003. Met my Australian wife, Maria, at family wedding on Maui in May 2009. Married Maria in August 2010 at friend’s house on the St. Clair River in East China Twp. (Best Decision I’ve ever made). Judge Cynthia Platzer officiated. Witnesses: Bill and Cris Nesbitt, Gerry & Patti Mason. Ringbearer: John Deaver-Chang Mason. Worked for Fleis & Vandenbrink, Engineering Company. Karegnondi Water Pipe Line. 2014-2015. Moved to Oz in October 2015. John Louis Robbins born at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney: Nov 2015. Stay at Home Dad in Oz: Nov 2015 to Present. Writer for Blue Water Healthy Living: Beginning July 4, 2018. Ending: TBD Christian, Husband, Father, Engineer, Thinker. Lover of Life. Faith. Family. Friends. American Football.
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Disclaimer: Blue Water Healthy Living is an online magazine located in Port Huron, Michigan. Our purpose is to promote healthy living by showcasing the Blue Water Area, its people, issues and surroundings. This online magazine is devoted to providing healthy living related stories, local happenings, and commentary. Often inspiring and uplifting, our stories come from our heart and soul to promote the enjoyment of a more fulfilling Blue Water Area lifestyle. The material on this web site is provided for informational and amusement purposes only and is not to be confused with any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of Blue Water Healthy Living.

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