Additional Tales from Oz Part 3

Finally done with the e-book (Ultimate collection of the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum)!

The last three stories were all great stories, which makes the end of the book bittersweet.  I will definitely miss the land of Oz, especially the stories loaded with innocence and heart.  It reminded me why I am consistently drawn towards children’s stories.

Title:  The Tin Woodman of Oz

The Tin Woodman of Oz is probably one of the quirkier characters (well there are loads of them) out of Oz.  He is one of the first characters Dorothy met in the land of Oz and has been a consistent presence throughout the stories.  So it was only fitting that he gets a story dedicated to him. In this one, the readers finally get to answer: why was the Witch angry at Nick Chopper? who was the tinsmith that helped him? is he the only one of his kind in the land of Oz? All these questions were answered with the usual sense of love, fun and adventure.  Not to mention I got to explore other areas in the land of Oz and meet a new set of characters – Woot the Wanderer, Mrs. Yoop, Ku-Klip and Nimmie Amee.

My favorite quote from this book:

“We are not to blame for what cannot be helped; so let us push bravely ahead and see what may be seen” – Scarecrow

Title:  The Magic of Oz

Ozma’s birthday party causes a bit of pressure to our usual characters – Dorothy, Wizard of Oz, Captain Bill and Trot – to come up with a special gift.  Given how much they all love Ozma, they go the extra mile to come up with an idea and then execute it.  The problem is that Ruggedo (the Old Nome King) finds a way to cause mischief and almost derails their plans.  With a bit of luck, wit and magic, our characters were able to hurdle all the challenges and complete their special gifts to Ozma.

Personally, I thought the Magic Flower was so beautiful (thank you imagination!) and would indeed be a beautiful addition to the Palace of Oz.

My favorite quote from this book:

“A home of any sort should be beautiful to those who live in it, and should not be intended to please strangers” – Lonesome Duck

Title:  Glinda of Oz

Ozma and Dorothy find themselves in trouble as they got trapped underwater with a bit of unknown magic.  Glinda saves the day with her powerful skills and help from other wonderful characters in Oz – the usual suspects and the three Magic Adepts, Ervic the Skeezer and Red Reera.  Biggest surprise was in the end where it was Dorothy that plays a major role in solving their trouble and restoring peace and order once again in the wonderful land of Oz.

My favorite quote from this book:

“I’m glad I don’t know everything, Dorothy, and that there still are things both in nature and in wit for me to marvel at.” – Princess Ozma

Again, I will definitely miss the land of Oz.  But, I feel that am ready and curious enough to move on to my next book adventure.

To end, thank you L. Frank Baum for the wonderful Oz stories!

Quick Notes: Tubbataha Dive Experience

Related to my previous post, I am posting a brief summary of my experience.  I made notes on all our dives with side comments in my phone and now inputting it here for safekeeping.

1st day

  • 2 dives on Jessie Beazley Reef – 1st multiple shark experience, really awesome to see them in their natural habitat
  • 2 dives on Shark Airport – 1st dive saw multiple sharks again (with some resting on the reef); 2nd dive was a night dive wherein we saw multiple large colourful  lobsters

2nd day

  • 1 dive on Shark Airport – failed hammerhead search
  • 1 dive on Seafan Alley – beautiful corals and sea of fishes; as if trapped in an aquarium
  • 1 dive on Black Rock – Manta (saw it first)!; strong current though and almost ran out of air; I have to thank Richard (our dive master) for keeping me calm and collected on this one
  • 1 dive on T Wreck – chill dive; beautiful corals with a random small turtle

3rd day

  • 1 dive on Delsan Wreck – saw a Whale Shark for the first time… it was more than 40 meters deep though so I did not get that close; I wished the photographers did not swarm it as much, it may have swam higher
  • 1 dive on Triggerfish City – only saw one triggerfish (so I was wondering about the name); mountain of corals and loads of turtles (one turtle though looked like it was either sick or sleeping); Bonus:  upside down shark near the boat right after we surfaced — thought it was trapped but it was not.  My co-divers said it must have been a wild night
  • 1 dive on South West Wall – sharks were swimming far away but still beautiful corals; corals were not as beautiful as the other sites but all alive and well; nice to see
  • 1 dive on a site near Amos Rock – felt like we were swimming in a coral maze; few shadows of sharks; Bonus:  swam with dolphins for a few seconds/minutes prior to the official dive starting point
  • Side trip:  Visited the ranger station after the last dive; amazing people and may they continue to protect the Tubbataha Reefs

4th day

  • 1 dive on Amos Rock – not so good visibility (by Tubbataha standards), which may be due to the rain during the night; school of shark and barracudas; beautiful corals with small fish (common in Tubbataha — wonderful)
  • 1 dive on Malayan Wreck – small wreck but saw a blue spotted ray; school of jacks
  • 1 dive on Wall Street – chill dive; Tubbataha standard of beautiful wall and corals; Sea fan pictorial with Alice at 90ft

All in all, Tubbataha was the best dive site I have been to so far – good visibility, wonderful corals and marine life.  For first timers, be prepared for mostly deep and drift dives.  Generally, the drift is not that strong, though this depends on weather and sea conditions.  Visibility is great.  Though from what one of my co-divers said, there are times when it was even better.

 

Quick Notes: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Palawan

I visited Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park from May 29 to June 3 via M/Y Sakura liveaboard (my first one).  I flew to Palawan morning of the 29th then in the afternoon embarked on a 10 to 14 hours boat ride to Tubbataha.

As stated in the handout I received during the orientation, “The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is the only purely marine World Heritage Site in Southeast Asia.  The Park contains roughly 10,000 hectares of coral reefs and lies at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the global center for marine biodiversity. 

The Park is a major source of coral and fish larvae, enriching fisheries in surrounding areas.  Its islets are one of the last intact seabird habitats in the Philippines.

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It has seventeen (17) dive sites tagged in the map.  Eight (8) in the North Atoll, seven (7) in the South Atoll and two (2) in the Jessie Beazley reef.

On average, we did four (4) dives per day except for the last day wherein we only did three (3).  I personally decided not to skip any of the fifteen (15) dives to maximize the experience.  We were blessed with generally fair weather with scattered rain especially during the evening.

It was like a dream.  Though some of my co-divers said it was not the best visibility, every dive was a great dive.  The corals are pristine with the reef wall full of large sea fans.

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Marine life is diverse.  And most of all, lots of colors abound.  It was everything I envisioned it to be.  So beautiful.

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We were also blessed with sightings of sharks (loads of different varieties), whale shark, turtles and manta.

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imageYes, there is a whale shark there somewhere. Taken at 100ft deep.

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To keep it short and simple, it was the best site I have been to. The ocean is alive and wonderful.

I did take some photos but mostly I just spent most of my time admiring and absorbing everything my eyes could land on. It is not everyday I get to see majestic beauty.  It also helped that I knew I was with a group of diver photographers so I know they will have loads of photos.

All I can say is that we have been so blessed.  I hope we all strive to preserve it.  God is wonderful; what a beautiful world.  Hopefully I can return some time in the future.

To learn more about Tubbataha, you can visit http://www.tubbatahareef.org.

Additional Tales from Oz Part 2

In my continuing attempt to finish the Ultimate Collection of the Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, I brought my Kindle in my recent Tubbataha/Palawan trip.  Living on a boat for 5 days, I used Oz as an escape from the heat and physical exhaustion.  Fortunately enough, the three succeeding books I finished featured my favorite elements from the Oz stories.  It was just simple storytelling with lots of fun, heart and soul.

Title:  The Scarecrow of Oz

This story explores a country under the rule of Oz but separated from it by treacherous mountains.  It covers three phases interwoven beautifully by the author.  I got to know Captain Bill and Trot, who eventually gets to live in the magical land of Oz.  Then, it shifted to Jinxland ruled by The Wicked King.  Pon is a very nice kid and got the dream ending he deserves.  And then of course, I got to meet the wonderful people of Oz once more to deliver justice and ensure that love and peace continue to reign within its boundaries.

My favorite quote in this book is:

“But nobody can stay alive without getting into danger sometimes, and danger doesn’t mean getting hurt Captain; it only means we might get hurt.  So I guess we’ll have to take the risk.” – Trot

Title:  Rinkitink in Oz

This story had a strong plot with lots of interesting sub plots, which makes it a great read.  I got to meet a simple family trying to live an honourable and honest life in the Kingdom of Regos and Coregos.  I also revisited King Kaliko, who has taken over the rule from the Nome king.  King Rinkitink and Bilbil the Goat’s back stories are also included in the mix.

But the core plot remains on the destruction and eventual restoration of the peaceful island of Pingaree.  The Island of Pingaree is a new Kingdom slightly outside Oz since it is separated by the Nonestic Ocean.  It is very lucky to have the three magical pearls and great set of rulers – King Kitticut, Queen Garee and the hero of the story, Prince Pinga.

I have two favorite quotes from this book:

“This is the way to get ideas:  never to let adverse circumstances discourage you, but to believe there is a way out of every difficulty, which may be found by earnest thought.” – On Prince Pinga facing the challenges set by King Kaliko

“The beauty of life is its sudden changes.  No one knows what is going to happen next, and so we are constantly being surprised and entertained.  The many ups and downs should not discourage us, for if we are down, we know that a change is coming and we will go up again.” – King Rinkitink

Title:  The Lost Princess of Oz

Yes, the title was very catchy and puzzling especially since it is consistent throughout the book how powerful Ozma is.  But the story did use it as an anchor and it was so heartwarming (albeit expected) to see the support from her kingdom and the various friends she met along the way.  There is a lot of nostalgia in this one as almost every hero from the series and additional stories lent their support in the quest to find Ozma.  The quest was even made harder since the regular elements used – The Magic Picture and Great Book of Records – were also gone from Oz.  I also found Ugu the Shoemaker a surprising and unlikely villain of the story.  My favorite new character from this book was definitely the Big Lavender Bear and the Pink Little Bear.  I was glad they offered their assistance in the quest.

“To be individual, my friends, to be different from others, is the only way to become distinguished from the common herd.  Let us be glad, therefore, that we differ from one another in form and in disposition.  Variety is the spice of life, and we are various enough to enjoy one another’s society; so let us be content.” – Cowardly Lion

Sometimes I wonder if I am already too old for these stories.  But as Frank L. Baum puts it in his letter to readers in the succeeding book:  “my books are intended for all those whose hearts are young, no matter what their ages may be.” I guess that explains a lot.

 

Currently reading:  Ultimate collection of the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (E-book) (79% completed)

Additional Tales from Oz part 1

NOTE: I finished the Oz series way back but my collection was not yet completely finished.  In the succeeding book, I learned in the prologue that somehow L. Frank Baum, the Royal Historian of Oz figured out a way to contact Princess Dorothy and, with the blessings of Glinda the Good and Ozma, granted him access to more stories.

Title: Patchwork Girl of Oz

I did not like the story. Though some elements of it are present in the previous Oz books, such as the journey, familiar and new characters, I felt like there was something missing. Fun maybe? Or is it that the journey almost became pointless? (With the previous books, I predicted the end as soon as the journey began.. something about how to handle Magic.) But I guess it is mostly on the new characters… I did not get attached to them like the previous ones.

Nevertheless, it is still a good read after being shut out of Oz for quite some time as we get to learn:

  • how the Powder of Life is created, including who created it;
  • what happened to some of our Oz friends: Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Dorothy; and,
  • that the Old Magician is no longer a humbug — he is learning tricks from Glinda the Good

My favorite quotes in this book were:

“But I never criticize my friends.  If they are really true friends, they may be anything they like, for all of me.” – Shaggy Man

But I have noticed that those who continually dread ill luck and fear will overtake them, have no time to take advantage of any good fortune that comes their way.” – Tin Man

Title: Tik-tok of Oz

After finishing the story, I am quite unsure why it was named after Tik-tok… But I loved the story nonetheless. With the Shaggy Man’s brother imprisoned by Ruggedo, Shaggy Man embarks on a mission to save him. Along the way he meets familiar faces to aid him in his journey, such as Tik-tok and Polychrome, with new characters, such as Rose Princess and officers from the Kingdom of Oogaboo, which makes the journey very interesting.  I loved the use of a Tube as a means to transport to another side of the world.  I also met Quox, the Dragon, that definitely aided them in their journey.  There was also a story of redemption for Queen Ann of Oogaboo.

All in all, I felt like this story had the right mix of the new and the familiar.  It was fun reminiscing the previous stories and then getting to know new ones.

My favorite quote in this book was:

“All the magic isn’t in fairyland,” he (Shaggy) said gravely. “There are lots of magic in all Nature, and you may see it as well in the United States, where you and I once lived, as you can here.”

“I never did,” she (Betsy) replied.

“Because you were so used to it all that you didn’t realize it was magic.  Is anything more wonderful than to see a flower grow and blossom, or to get light out of the electricity in the air? xxx”

Currently reading:  Ultimate collection of the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (E-book)

Secrets of the Universe

The latest book I finished is Benjamin Alire Saenz’ Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.  I bought this book out of curiosity and due to the number of awards in the cover while in provincial fieldwork last December.  But, it was only in my trip to Korea a few weeks back that I found time to read it.  I finished it last week (April 24) during my downtime after participating in my 2nd clean-up dive.

This was too close to home.  I related a lot to Ari’s sentiments throughout the book that I sometimes had to put it down just to re-think his realizations. A lot of truth. A lot of maybes. A lot to think about.

“We all fight our own private wars.”   – Ari

Ari was growing up and faced with a lot of issues.  But more than the secrets of the universe, he discovers and comes to term with himself in the process.

“I don’t know Dante.  Sometimes, I think I’ll never understand myself.  I am not like you.  You know exactly who you are.” – Ari

Angst was throughout the book with love and patience from a friend and his parents as its antidote. It was amazing how his family came together in the end.

“You’re not alone, Ari.  I know it feels that way but you’re not.” – Ari’s mother

Love wins.

“Maybe everyone loves differently.  Maybe that’s all that matters” – Ari

I would probably read this book a second time.

 

Quick Notes: Seoul, South Korea

I visited Seoul last 07 to 12 April 2016 primarily for the cherry blossoms and it did not disappoint.

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Luckily, we were still able to catch the last few days of the cherry blossoms festival in Jinhae…

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… with trees scattered in Seoul also still in full bloom.

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As a bonus, we were also just in time for the Tulip festival in Everland.

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It was a successful trip overall and here are my additional notes and thoughts:

Favorite place among those visited: Nami Island

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Favorite food I tasted: Street foods, especially the fresh strawberries with chocolate (runner-up: banana chocolate crepe with cereals)

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Favorite experience: T-Express ride in Everland

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Pleasant surprise:
– Streetfoods in Myeongdong
– Yeouido park

Other notes:
– Efficient transportation system
– They love to walk (trip involved lots of walking)
– Loads of beauty products

I think we still missed a lot of stops so might visit Seoul again. After all, Nami deserves a return trip.