By Christopher Robbins
Greetings from chilly Oz! It’s been a short 7 months (~14 fort-nights) since my last missive describing life in Oz. For those Adair-Heights residents: a friendly reminder that a fort-night = 14 days. Winter in Oz kicked in officially on June 1st and it’s chilly and rainy in Sydney. Much has happened since November 22, 2018. So much to be grateful for. Too many blessings to count.
Where to begin…?
We enjoyed a beautiful Christmas time and celebrated the birth of Christ down here in old Sydneytown. I searched out and picked up a real Christmas Tree from the local Sea Scout Troop and hauled it back to our apartment in Kirribilli stuffed into our 2006 Mazda 6… or, as Johnny calls it … our zoom-zoom car. Johnny, Maria and I decorated the tree…it took a few iterations because Johnny kept taking the lights off. For a 3 year old he holds opinions and tastes that are wee bit too adult-like in their composition.
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Santa Claus was generous to 3 year old Johnny… he must have been a good boy in 2018. Plenty of Paw Patrol toys to go around. Thank the Good Lord for Chase, Marshall and Rubble and friends. The boy is fascinated with those pups. After Christmas, we rung in the New Year with fireworks that could be seen from our terrace. Sydney puts on one spectacular New Year’s Fireworks Display. It’s so loud that Johnny has to don ear muffs so he doesn’t get too frightened and startled by the loud kabooms.
We hosted an “Australia Day” bbq at our apartment on 26 Jan…this is the Aussie equivalent to our Independence Day. Our friends the Gampenov’s, King’s and Penn’s came over and we celebrated with great food and beverages. Good time had by all. I’m beginning to like this country….my 2nd Country: USA remains numero uno in my heart and soul.
In February my two next oldest sisters, Ann and Mary Beth, visited from Michigan. What a blast to have two of my favorite people in town. Oh we had a great time seeing all the Sydney sights: Manly and Bondi Beaches; an Opera House Tour, trip to Watson’s Bay and excursion to Camp Cove beach. They spoiled Johnny rotten…giving him surprise gifts EVERY day they were here. Johnny loves his “Ants”… as he calls them: “Ant Ann” and “Ant Mary Beff.” We had so much fun together it was tough to chauffeur them to Sydney Airport for the return flight to the USA.
The hits kept coming…with cousin Barbara Zimmer from Tucson, Arizona visiting the end of April. Barbara is one of my 66 first cousins on the Zimmer side of the family and the oldest daughter to my Uncle Dick and Aunt Marion Zimmer. Whilst she was in Oz we explored the greater Sydney area together including a memorable trip to the Blue Mountains where we discovered beautiful vistas and acquired sore muscles in the bargain. Barbara is also the unofficial Zimmer family historian and has done incredible research on ancestry.com . She taught me much about our family history during our many conversations while she was here with us. Barbara is a family gem. Johnny really liked her too…. of course it didn’t hurt her cause when she brought him a stuffed animal “Chase” from Paw Patrol and chocolate-covered pecans. Good move, Barbara!
Nothing better than having family and friends around us. One of our friends, Keith Graboske, from Warren, Michigan will be visiting in July. Keith will also be spending time in Brisbane while he is in Oz. We are looking forward to Keith’s upcoming visit with great anticipation.
With the Winter upon us, I have embarked on a new venture…. a seafaring venture. I attended Sea School International to obtain my Maritime General Purpose Deck Hand certification. This Credential will be my ticket to working on commercial vessels in Sydney Harbor: including Ferries and working boats. Turns out I’m mean’t to be on the water. When Barbara Zimmer was visiting and we were reviewing family history, it dawned on me that many of my ancestors worked on the water on both sides of my family: the Zimmer’s and the Robbins’. Grandpa Lou Zimmer worked on the freighters before he worked at Diamond Crystal Salt, Uncle Herb also worked for a while on the freighters…again before working at the Diamond. Uncle Jerry, my Godfather, was Chief Engineer on the Mesabi Miner 1000 footer. On the Robbins Side, my Great Grandpa Fred Robbins was a Captain and so was my Uncle Bob Robbins. And, of course, 3 of my siblings were in the Navy: Paul, Rick and Mary Beth. I even did a stint in the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps…including a trip to boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois in the summer of 1984. Somewhere along the track I got re-routed. Happy to report I am back on my natural intended life path. Wish me luck, I’ve submitted applications to the classic Sydney Harbor Ferries as well as FantaSea Ferries and Captain Cook Cruises. For those wondering about my engineering career… I shall keep my license active…ye olde belt-and-suspenders approach to life. This was advised by my able leadership team of Joe and Bob Cray LLC.
Life is indeed full of surprises: what an adventure! That’s all for now: Catch you around in a fortnight!
Aussie Travel Financial Factoids
Currency Exchange Rate: $1 US buys $1.46 AUD, Source Bloomberg
Roundtrip Airfare Detroit-Sydney : $2,122 USD Delta 1 stop in LA, Source Expedia
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
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.