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LIFE ON LAND

Our Newsletter of April 2000 Frank & Cynthia Robben
510 McKenzie Drive
Dixon, CA 95620
frobben@kialoa2.com

Greetings! Finally, I have not only written a newsletter but also assembled an address list (email and snailmail). I have good memories of everyone on this list and hope you will be interested in our activities of the last year, and how I see life from the vantage point of a 66-year-old-retiree without a boat! We hope that the new millennium has gone well for you and that you are enjoying good health and doing interesting things. We would love to hear from you, email, snailmail or a telephone call – and since we do wish to travel it is possible that we might visit you in the next year or so!

             Best wishes, Frank & Cynthia

I have found it difficult this year to write a newsletter and to update my web site (not yet done!). There seems nothing that noteworthy to write about, the sort of things which in the past few years have provided inspiration for me – not that our life sailing and living on Kialoa II was all that adventurous but it was at least a bit unusual for most landlubbers. Further, I greatly enjoyed the activities and pleasures that come with sailing - living on a yacht, visiting interesting and beautiful places and meeting interesting people. There has been none of that since April of last year when I sailed on Kialoa II to Tahiti with the new owner and his crew. (My newsletter of May last year is posted on our website, http://www.kialoa2.com/.)

So I must write about more ordinary things, our comings and goings, a bit of the children, and a bit of what I am thinking and planning (Ha). I also plan (hopefully soon) to post some photos of us and our surroundings on our website, www.kialoa2.com, along with a modified version of this newsletter. (Note - this was never done)

We moved from Kialoa II in February last year (1999) into a rented house in Honolulu, a nice place beautifully situated at the upper end of  Manoa Valley. The lush Pali (cliffs) towered over us to the north; to the south we had a sweeping vista down the valley to the ocean, bordered by the high-rises of Waikiki to the right and the extinct volcanic crater of Diamond Head to the left. We stayed in Honolulu until September and then returned to Dixon for Maria to begin school in the eighth grade.

I started living the life of a retiree while in Honolulu and am not so sure I like it. I read the news more. Spend time on the internet finding out about all sorts of things. Bought some furniture, had friends for dinner, hiked in the hills, jogged along interesting jungle paths, joined other retirees swimming for exercise down at Waikiki in a lovely area protected by the reef. Maria was delivered to and from school regularly, and we drove around the island of Oahu and went on interesting hikes. Sylvia, Cynthia’s sister, came from Sri Lanka and stayed with us for 5 months. We greatly enjoyed having her, she is a very kind lady who had never flown nor traveled before. I bought a digital camera (which I had wanted before we went sailing the last time) at a good price, learned how to use it and took lots of pictures.

We took a week’s holiday in Kaui, a lovely island, camped out for a few days in a park high up in the mountains (now I cannot even remember the name), and hiked a bit along the famous Napali coast. (This area of the northern coast, still very beautiful, is overrun by regulations, a result of the fame and the pressure of tourists. No nude hikers, no commune camps, no free living anymore.)

I spent time investigating the money I have to live on, mostly stocks which, as luck has had it in the recent years, have increased in value. That is the good news, the bad news is that it was simpler when I was out sailing and did not really know what was going on. Too much knowledge is a bad thing!

The move to Dixon in September was not easy, amazing how much stuff is accumulated in spite of trying not to. When we got to Dixon we could not even rent a small place temporarily, the rental market was so tight. I decided to look for a house to buy, and after a week or so we also found a temporary place to stay. We looked for older places but the few available were overpriced. Finally we bought a 4 bedroom tract house built in 1977, simple but pleasant and quite satisfactory. We repainted the interior, put in new carpets and refinished the cabinets before moving in. And since then we have not done much, have not even installed curtains yet. (The excuse is that Cynthia and I do not agree on the style.) My enthusiasm in general seems to be limited.

Let me digress a little and tell you about Dixon, my hometown. It is located in the agriculturally rich central valley of California on the main railroad line between Sacramento (20 miles east and the capital) and San Francisco (70 miles west). My great-grandfather Bernard Robben, who came to California with the ‘49ers seeking gold in the hills east of Sacramento, was one of the original homesteaders. California was then a territory of the United States and had been surveyed and the land made available for settlers in 160 acre plots, the general policy of the government.

There is still much agriculture here, almond and walnut orchards, corn, wheat, alfalfa hay, tomatoes (the big money crop) and other irrigated, intensively cultivated crops. The land is worked and owned by smaller farmers, but not so small, with perhaps 1000 to 2000 acres size to be economically viable, and a cash rollover of several million dollars a year. Most of the labor is carried out by Mexican immigrants, many who do not speak much English. It is very pleasant to tour the countryside, as I do by bicycle and car, observing the cultivation, growth and harvesting of the crops.

But the real money in Dixon is as a bedroom community, people driving to office and factory jobs as far away as San Francisco and Stockton. And there are even a few budding businesses in Dixon. When I was in high school in the 40’s the population was about 1700; it has now exploded to 16,000. Where the railroad was once of great importance it is now Interstate 80, 6 lanes crowded with traffic 24 hours a day. My vision of the area of California from San Jose and Silicon Valley to the south of San Francisco to Sacramento, a distance of 200 miles, is that it will fill in nearly solid with houses, shopping centers, business centers and factories. It will become like greater Tokyo (a very interesting place where I worked for a year) with a population approaching the present population of the entire state, 30 million. I chafe with the crowding and rampant consumerism, it is an irritant almost wherever I go.

A bit on the families: Cynthia is happy and doing fine, she does not have the expectations and drive for “accomplishments” that I do, and this makes it clear to me that life is then simpler. It is wonderful to have a companion like that. She takes care of the children, the house, our meals, has friends and works a bit as well. She is definitely good company, energetic and remains her cheery self; she does not agonize over what we are doing and what we should do, like her husband! She recently turned 50, which I found a changing point in my life. Hope she does not change too much…

Maria, now 12, is in the eighth grade and is more concerned about clothes, makeup and jewellery than schoolwork and grades. That is a bit of a problem for me. Adrian (18) will graduate from high school, has a car and a part time job delivering pizza, both of which he likes. We do not know what he will do when he graduates; he does not talk much about his plans. But he seems happy and doing fine. Dalreen (21) stayed in Honolulu, works part time for Robert’s of Hawaii as a hostess on dinner catamaran cruises and has a small room. Anthony (23) also stayed in Honolulu, working at a restaurant, but has just recently returned to Dixon and is not sure what he will do next. He is working at a local restaurant but would like to go to school and prepare for a better career. Unfortunately he has not saved enough $$ to do that!

Pippi, the baby of my family, works on clothing and costumes for movies and TV productions, an “on-call” job which she enjoys. She is thinking of moving from San Diego to Los Angeles to be closer to the best jobs. Michael remains in Tokyo teaching English. Katie and Thomas live in Stinson Beach with Thomas commuting to San Francisco where he works in a software firm. Their three children, Björn, Anders and Linnea are most cute and full of life, they keep their parents busy and entertain grampa when he visits.

My mother is doing quite well at 92, and my stepfather (94) is OK but we can see that his activities and abilities are diminishing; his short term memory is not so good and he finds it difficult to walk and move because of hip replacement problems. He still drives out to his farm every day and looks at the crops and cattle but does not now manage the farming affairs. They live by themselves in a very nice house; my mother has some cleaning help but otherwise is self-sufficient. Their future, though, is a bit unsettling.

I have archived some old family pictures on the computer, I scanned them, recorded some comments by my mother and me, and wrote some text description. When I am finished I plan to put them on CD-Rom so that all in the family can have a copy. I also am copying a number of more recent pictures that I think will be of interest to keep. I am still interested in writing but no activity (excuse is too busy!), and I have not proceeded with the rowing shell project that I had in mind, a faster design. Too difficult, perhaps, and not so likely to be successful, as the national rowing association has prohibited such innovations. It would take a significant chunk of my time and money, which perhaps I would rather spend on something else? It is amazing how the tasks expand to take up every day, there is never enough time – a littany I seem to remember hearing from others but had not experienced personally.

We have gone skiing a few times and that was most enjoyable –the Sierras are beautiful in the winter, covered with snow and with wonderful views out over Lake Tahoe from the peaks of the mountains that the chair lifts serve. Maria took to skiing and learned quickly which makes it a good family activity.

Maria, however, has not been doing as well as I expect in school, not doing her lessons and homework properly. She should be near the top of her class. So we are considering a change in schools, the question is, will it make a difference – how much will her future be affected by the school she attends, the teachers and the classmates? Sacred Hearts Academy, which she attended in Honolulu last year, was quite good. For that, and personal reasons, we are considering moving back to Honolulu. This, however, would mean that I cannot be as close to my mother, and that is a problem both for me and for her.

We are anticipating our trip to London in the middle of May, to visit friends both of Cynthia’s and mine, and to see a few plays and just play tourist. It will be fun and a good break.

Our most exciting news is that we, with Maria, are going to Sri Lanka for the summer, for 10 weeks. Maria will stay in Kandy with her Aunt Sylvia, while Cynthia and I plan to tour both Sri Lanka and India as time permits. I am particularly interested in visiting India; besides some of the holy and famous places I want to go into the Himalaya region and see what it feels like there. We probably will go to Kathmandu in Nepal and I may try to join a small group on a limited hike into the more mountainous regions. In general we plan to be unscheduled and try to just wander around as circumstances and desire strikes us, and find out if travel can be also be interesting without a sailing yacht!