today was a BIG day

In mostly superficial ways, but also some less so. I haven’t written in a while, but I just want to document a few things – mostly for myself, but of course, everyone is free to read.

First of all, today was a day of receiving. It began by finding the incentive that I was owed for completing a research study at Bonnaroo. Although it was opened and buried under magazines on the kitchen table, neither parent had mentioned it. Hmm…

Then, my prize from last week’s The Mountain Artwear Instagram contest came in the mail: a GoPro Hero Session and a $500 gift card for American Airlines so that I can go dive with sharks in Miami… Sometimes I really cannot believe the stuff that happens in my life.

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and all because of this shirt

On top of that, my paycheck came in from some sketchy people I re-wrote an entire website for – FINALLY. I was actually getting a little worried there that they would disappear entirely.

Today was also a day of giving – that is, spending significantly. I purchased my welcome-to-the-wild-world-of-medicine kit, including my very own customized, black-and-rainbow stethoscope.

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in all its iridescent glory

My eye was drawn to it from the very start, although I was nervous that it could be taken as unprofessional – a manifestation of pretty much my deepest anxiety about the next few years. Will I be seen as a fraud, not really fit to be a physician? I still feel like such a kid; how many years of training will it be until I start to feel like a professional adult?

But upon hearing these thoughts, Brave Jenna grabs Wimpy Jenna and smack her across the face, and exclaims, “This is the stethoscope of a badass! The official doctoring tool of someone who knows how to work hard AND play hard! Someone who can be polished and profesh and still get a little wild sometimes!”

Life is a constant battle between BJ and WJ.

The final big move of today was booking my flight back to Israel. But wait J, didn’t you just get back from that tiny strip of highly contested desert land? Why are you going back?

It’s pretty simple: because of a man named Tal. A year ago, I never would have thought that I would be back in Israel so soon. I also never would have though I’d be entangled in this international romance, either, so go figure. Sure, it’s expensive af and going to be a long flight (time to break out those #sexy compression socks), but I think he’s worth it, and he thinks I’m worth it. So we’ll make it work.

Today was a huge day for me, not only in regards to income and outcome, but also in terms of what those transactions mean for my future. (It was also an emotional rollercoaster, but I’m not going to get into that now). Tomorrow is my last day of unplanned summer time, but that does not mean it’s my last day of freedom (as I sometimes joke it is). It is just the last day before a new, thrilling chapter begins.

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I love traveling alone.

(I promise I will post about the rest of Vienna eventually…)

Today is the last day of my brief solo travel adventure in Germany. And from this experience, I have learned that I want do to it again and again.

Don’t get me wrong, traveling with friends (and my boyfriend) has been wonderful. The past few days have just been so freaking awesome and self-informative in a different way.

Why?

Because I had complete control over my experiences. The companionship that you gain when you travel with others replaces some of the freedom you have to do exactly what you want when alone.

Because I was only alone when I wanted to be. I know that I can strike up conversation with strangers, find fellow travellers, and tag along on other people’s plans if I want to.

Because there is something about being alone that makes me pay more attention to the details around me. Maybe it is because I am always a little more cautious when I’m alone, or maybe it is because I am not distracted by another person’s needs and desires. Either way, I felt more engaged with these cities since I had to do all of the planning, organizing, navigating, and decision-making on my own.

And finally, because traveling alone means you have to enjoy your own company. And I don’t take the time to do that very often. This time has helped me remind myself that  I like spending time with me. 🙂

 

vienna was the wurst (part one)

Just kidding! Tal and I had an overall lovely time in Vienna. The recap begins… now!

After an extremely long day of traveling, we finally made it to Vienna in the early evening. After a quick nap, we awoke hungry for adventure and our first meal. Heading out around 10 PM, we were startled to find that everything seemed closed – bars, restaurants, you name it.

We settled for a yummy meal at a vegan burger place called Swing Kitchen and then walked around the Innere Stadt (the city center). In spite of nothing being open, we enjoyed the view of the Stephensplatz cathedral lit up at night.

The next day, we picked up our Vienna Pass and began a whirlwind three days of sight-seeing. After agonizing over whether to purchase it, we decided we’d buy it and try to get our money’s worth (75E for three days of all-access to over 60 attractions). I’ll let you know at the end of these posts whether we succeeded or not.

After a breakfast of dumplings and streudel at a very pretentious cafe, we started our day at the Freud Museum. It was pretty cool because it is housed in his actual apartment from when he lived in Vienna and has lots of interesting items from his life.

We grabbed a quick lunch at the pay-what-you-want Deewan restaurant. The Mumok modern art museum was next, which we were not the biggest fans of. Idk, maybe we just don’t “get” modern art. They did have a lovely cupcake selection in the cafe, though.

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Continuing in the MuseumsQuartier, we went to the Kunsthistorisches (Art History) Museum which had a massive display of ancient artifacts and Habsburgian wealth. We tried an Almdudler (a sweet Austrian soda) in the impressive cafe in the center of the museum.

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Switching things up, we went to a show called “Time Travel Vienna.” Outrageously priced (if you do not have a Pass) and seemingly tacky, it actually ended up being one of our favorite things that we did on the trip. The show included a “5D” movie of the history of Vienna and an animatronic meet-and-greet with deceased rulers. It was silly, engaging, and much more fun than we expected it to be.

Our day ended with a visit to the Haus der Musik, a museum about sound. It was a little weird, but interesting. We topped off the evening with drinks, fajitas, and some darn good nachos at a nearby restaurant called Santos, and promptly passed out.

Our first day was quite a success. Stay tuned for part two!

Thoughts on Death and Friendship

When you get to a certain point in your friendship – maybe after a few years of knowing each other, or maybe after an event that causes a slight shift in the intangible bond that connects you – you are struck with this gut, instinctual feeling that this is a person that has your back, that you are true friends. A person with whom you can talk about everything, or nothing at all; go on adventures, or be a lazy bum. Someone whose friendship may dim at certain points, but will never fade from your life.

There are many people that I met in college that were barely in touch with their friends from high school, maintaining close relationships with just a small handful. Over time, I have truly come to realize how incredible it is that Nbk Swag (as we have goofily dubbed ourselves) has stayed so close for so many years.

I think it is lucky to find one or two people that you can consider true friends – I don’t even know what word to use to describe how blessed I am to have a whole group of them. I cherish the fact that when I come home, I’m not only looking forward to the comfort of good food and my loving family, but also to this ragtag group of quirky, hilarious, golden people that I call my friends.

Some relationships need to be nourished regularly in order to maintain a sense of value and to reaffirm your bond. They require constant updates and the consistent sharing of intimate details, about stress, love, sorrow, and success.

But with my guys and girls, there is an understanding that our bond is strong, and it is permanent. It does not matter whether we have not seen each other in months, or whether we only can catch up briefly every once in a while. Because we know that when we can be physically together again, we will be. And it will be like nothing changed.

Nothing might not be the best word there. Of course, there is change – new knowledge, new experiences, new milestones in life. Our bond of friendship – that’s what is indisputable.

That is how I feel about Matt Brenner. We did not see each other as regularly once we got to college, but every time we were in the same zip code, I knew I would see his smiling face. His loss sharpens my sense of appreciation for the people that I call my friends, my crew.

When we all meet up, there is a roll call, a list of sorts, that we use to check that everyone is right where they should be. If someone isn’t there, then there’s a flurry of discussion about where they are, what they’re doing – we are assuring ourselves that even though that person is not presently with us, they are doing well, doing big things, living the life he or she wants to be living. When we gather, it is a celebration of our past years of friendship, our present state of unity, and the future memories we know we’ll create.

Now, it’s different. Now, while I am sure we will continue to celebrate, it will never be without a modicum of grief. Because there is a name on that list that we will not be able to greet again, nor applaud from afar, listing the amazing things that he had accomplished in his lab or in his musical career. Brenner’s passing leaves us with a hole in our circle and in our hearts. I have no doubt, however, that his legacy will inspire us to hold tighter to each other, to cherish the connections we have cultivated, and to love harder than we ever have before.

the best of budapest: part two

Day 3 was our Jewish History Day. We started it off with the House of Terror, a government-building-turned-museum that served as a place where anyone who was deemed dangerous to the terrorist regime would be jailed, tortured, and executed (starting off bright and cheery today, aren’t we?).

It was occupied by both the fascist Hungarian Nazi Party, the Arrow Cross Party, and the communist AVH Party. The museum is a testament to the cruel rule of the regimes and in memory of those who perished at their hands. We wandered in the interactive exhibits as we listened to the audioguide with rapt attention. It was incredibly horrifying and informative, and overall we really enjoyed it.

We headed back to the Jewish Quarter and ended up eating at this cool market full of interesting food stalls called Karavan. We had a cheese-burger, in that the burger was a fried cheese patty. It was pretty glorious.

Next, we went to the Grand Synagogue of Budapest. And I have to say, it was pretty freaking grand. 

They must have found some church architect to build it, because it STRONGLY resembles a cathedral on the inside. I sent my mom a picture and she asked me why I was in an empty church.

It was cool to see, but I also understand why some Jews feel weird about it. One of the reasons that most synagogue are not super bejewelled and flashy is because Judaism instructs that external displays of reverence to God are less significant than your internal connection with the text and your faith (at least, that’s what Tal says).

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casual anti-semitism?

That evening, we balled out and attended a candlelit dinner cruise on the Danube. We felt pretty bougie but it was AWESOME. We were greeted like royalty and escorted to our table.

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The meal included a drink, appetizer, soup, entree, and dessert. I had scallops, pumpkin soup, pork loin (sorry, Lord) and a heavenly panna cotta.

As we gorged ourselves, we were treated to foggy sights of the lit buildings along the river. OH, did I mention there were live musicians?!

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After dinner, we ended the evening at Szimpla Kert, the original ruin bar. It’s a pretty awesome place – ruin bars are created out of abandoned buildings. So any decoration goes. Feel like writing on the walls? No problem! We tried the traditional fruit brandy of Hungary, palinka. Glad I tried it once, but I’ll be okay if I never do it again. Or at least, mix it with something else next time.

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After such a busy few days, we decided to take it easy on our fourth day. We went to check out one of the last monuments that we hadn’t yet seen, the Hungarian Parliament building. It was pretty impressive, and the whole area had beautiful architecture and statues.

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We stopped for lunch at a VERY authentic hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Kisharang Etkezde. Since it was our last day (and the prices were obscenely low) we had to splurge and try every Hungarian delicacy that we hadn’t eaten yet.

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Beef consomme, fried mushrooms, a chicken-and-mushrooms dish that was out of this world, and a roasted-turkey-and-potatoes dish that was equally incredible.

Thoroughly stuffed, we proceeded to wander for a while and went to check out the Shoes of the Danube Memorial. The memorial is to honor Jews who were shot into the Danube during the Arrow Cross (Hungarian Nazi) regime from 1944-1945.

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We warmed up in a cute little tea shop (matcha for me, hot chocolate for him), then relaxed at the apartment.

Continuing on our Hungarian food binge, we went to one of the Christmas markets for the last time. We tasted langos (a obscenely unhealthy fried dough-thing smothered in sour cream, cheese, and garlic) and duck-stuffed cabbage. 

Walking home amidst sparkling trees (and other funky designs), we bid adieu to this awesome city.

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the best of budapest

Four days in Budapest. What an awesome city, and what a perfect amount of time to spend there! Tal and I decided to go to Budapest over Christmas for a little holiday away from Israel. He had never spent Christmas in a non-Jewish country, so we decided it was high time to do so. We arrived on Christmas Eve very late, and we pretty much only had time to MacGyver a converter plug before we crashed. Our Airbnb was absolutely adorable and very well-located.

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They even had two (rather rickety) bikes that were a huge time-saver. The next morning was Christmas! So naturally, we decided to go check out the grand cathedral of Budapest, St. Stephen’s Basilica.

The Basilica is the largest church in Hungary, and it is quite imposing. Its top people-pleasing draw is the mummified hand of St. Stephen, the founder of the kingdom of Hungary over a thousand years ago. ‘Twas a bit creepy.

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We climbed to the top of the basilica for a gorgeous view of the city. Well, relatively gorgeous. It was pretty foggy during the entirety of our trip, until the last day (classic).

The cathedral was surrounded by a Christmas market, one of many that we came across while roaming the city. Roaming the stalls, the aroma of bubbling cauldrons of mulled wine and cider and the technicolor marzipan candies delighted all our senses.

We stopped for lunch and had some crazy giant latke (potato pancake) smothered in chicken, veggies, and sour cream.

Later that day, we headed a bit out of the city center to get our bath on. Budapest is known for it’s hot springs, around which TONS of bathhouses have ‘sprung’ up. On the way to one of the the most famous bathhouses in the city park, there were (conveniently) a bunch of other impressive sites. At the entrance to the park, we walked through Hero’s Square, where there’s a monument to the 1,000th anniversary of the Magyar (Hungarian) kingdom.

We also passed a casual castle that had been turned into an agricultural museum, before we finally made it to the Szechenyi Spa Baths.

I forgot to take pictures at the baths, probably because I was so blissed out. The Szechenyi baths are special because they are massive outdoor thermal pools where you bathe with hundreds of other humans. While this definitely has the potential to be a little gross, it was really just awesome.

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unfortunately, it wasn’t this sunny when we were there.

That evening, we put our classy pants on and headed to the Hungarian State Opera house to see La Boheme. This was super special for me, since I have been obsessed with RENT for years. I knew that the musical was based off the opera, but I had no idea how closely the storylines followed. The opera was funny, heartbreaking, and a truly unforgettable experience. After the show, we capped off the night at a cool craft beer bar, hanging out with some Aussies.

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Day two, we had a lazy morning and began our day a little later. We had an exquisite lunch at a place called Bohemtanya, where I discovered something I didn’t even know I needed: garlic cream soup. With cheesy garlic bread. Hungary gets me.

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After lunch, we walked down the Gozsdu Udvar boulevard, checking out the cute shops and restaurants. Eventually, we made our way over the Chain Bridge, across the Danube river, and through the woods to Buda. Technically, the side of the city we were staying on is Pest.

A quick ride on the Siklo (a funicular railway operating since 1870) brought us to the top of the Castle Hill area. We check out the Buda Castle Museum for a while, then went to the Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum. I couldn’t take any pictures, but if you ever make it to Budapest, this is a MUST-SEE. It’s basically a tour of an underground hospital built in the 1940’s and it is fascinating.

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zee siklo
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inside the buda castle
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the only picture I got at the Hospital in the Rock

Next, we made our way back across a much foggier river.

Dinner at another Christmas market allowed us to absorb the bustling, festive atmosphere. We discovered the magic of Krampampuli, a mix of white wine, caramel, fruit, and schnapps, and enjoyed twinkling lights on our bike ride home.

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What happened on Day 3 & 4? Stay tuned for my next post!

quote of the day

“It was late December 1938, and since then I have never been abroad, except maybe in my thoughts. And I never shall. It’s not because the Land of Israel is so wonderful, it’s because I now believe that all journeys are ridiculous; the only journey from which you don’t always come back empty-handed is the journey inside yourself. Inside me there are no frontiers or customs, and I can travel as far as the farthest stars. Or walk about in places that no longer exist, visit people who no longer exist. I can even go to places that never existed, that could never have existed, but where I like being. Or at least, I don’t dislike it.”

Amos Oz, A Tale of Love and Darkness

FAQs

I have been terrible about updating recently, so let’s ask some important questions: What am I doing now? Why am I here? Why are any of us here? Are we really “here”?… So let’s get to some commonly asked questions.

Jenna, what are you doing in Israel now?

Starting off with the easy ones, I have been doing a five-month program through a program called Masa Israel, specifically under the care of the organizer Real Life Israel. This program was the real catalyst for my gap year. I applied for this program last November after I started considering going abroad before medical school. Once I was accepted, I deferred.

What’s Masa?

Masa is an organization that matches young Jewish adults with volunteering/interning/teaching/etc programs in Israel, and RLI is one of the sub-organizers that offered internships I was interested in. My internship is working as a research assistant under the Clinical Research Coordinator of TEREM.

What’s TEREM?

TEREM is an awesome organization. They run private, immediate care clinics that treat low-risk medical problems. By doing so, they relieve some of the burden of hospital emergency rooms by taking care of patients with minor problems. We are currently in the process of preparing for a clinical trial to occur at TEREM that will test the safety and efficacy of a new, Israeli-invented medical device.

That’s cool, but why are you there?

I am here to live, to learn, and to explore. After maaaaaany years of academia, I needed a break (before I get right back into it). I did not study abroad during college, so this was my opportunity to really spend some time in another country, experiencing a new language, people, and culture. I also had never been involved in clinical research of any kind, so I see this as an opportunity to develop my research skills.

Language?

Yes, I have been attempting to learn Hebrew. Emphasis on “attempting.” My program came with three-ish weeks of Ulpan (Hebrew lessons) which really isn’t enough to learn an entire language… However, I have picked up a decent amount of words and I am sloooooooowly working on stringing together sentences. Behatslacha (good luck – בהצלחה ) to me.

Who do you live with?

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post-thanksgiving food coma
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during our trip to the kinneret

My program consists of a group of 12 crazy, wonderful participants from all over. We’re mostly American, but we also have representatives from Vienna, Amsterdam, and London. Everyone has different internships. I feel so lucky that we’re all (relatively) normal, and we get along very well. In spite of our different schedules, we all take time to celebrate holidays and Shabbat together, and I treasure the trips we take as a group.

When are you coming home?

That’s an interesting question. The current plan is to come home sometime in April. I’ll keep you updated if that changes.

Anything else?

I am currently dating an Israeli man, and he is wonderful. His name is Tal, and yes, he met my parents while they were here. (They approve :P)

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Anything else else?

If you want to know more, please reach out! I have tried to stay in contact via social media with friends but I’m not perfect. If you miss me or just want to say hi, please drop a line. Much love from the Mid East ❤

Diving in Eilat: A Handy-Dandy Guide

Even though my last post was about Eilat, I am going to revisit it again here. Because I AM OBSESSED. It is basically paradise. Also, I visited two more times since the first time, so I am essentially an Eilat expert. Just kidding, but I would like to share some of my experiences; specifically, in regards to diving.

After my first dive experience, I was thirsty (hehe) for more. I adored the feeling of floating, being weightless, interacting with a new underwater world. I decided that I needed to become a certified scuba diver. Over the past month, I’ve learned and experienced a lot in regards to:

Diving In Israel
Getting Certified
Dive Schools

And I’d like to share that with you now!

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that’s me! underwater!

Diving in Israel

So I cannot compare my experience in Israel to any other place (yet), but from what I have learned, Israel seems to be one of the safest and best places to learn how to dive.

Israeli law includes a number of safety requirements regarding diving that not all other countries have. For example:

  1. If you have not dove for the past six months, it is required that you do a “Refresh” dive, to review basic diving skills.
  2. Courses must not have more than six students for every one instructor. (In other countries, they can have up to eight students)
  3. All divers, regardless of level, must dive with a dive buddy.

These are just a few of the regulations that I have learned about; I am sure there are more.

Another note: Dive insurance is required if you are renting equipment or doing guided dives (not if you are taking a course). There are multiple options for this, including both short-term and annual insurance plans. One of the most popular, that I just signed up for, is Divers Alert Network (DAN) insurance.

Getting Certified

So there are a ton of options for certification, but they pretty much all follow the same training regulations. They should also all be accepted everywhere. I had experience with two certification agencies on my way to getting my two-star certification.

IDF – The Israeli Diving Federation.

I completed my Open Water Diver course (or as it’s known in Israel, one-star) at Marina Divers, which follows the standards of the Israeli Diving Federation.

Pros: I felt like I learned how to be a safe, responsible diver with the course.

Cons: Potentially less recognizable than other larger agencies, not all course material was available in English, final certification exam not available in English. It also takes up to a month to get your certification card, and if you lose your card, you have to request a new one to be sent to you from Israel.

In sum: If you’re Israeli, this is an awesome choice. Non-Israelis: unless you spend a lot of time here, it might be more convenient to chose a school with a different certification sponsor.

PADI – Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

PADI is one of the oldest and most recognized dive organizations. I completed my Advanced Open Water Diver course (or two-star) at Lucky Divers.

Pros: Again, PADI is super-well known. Many dive schools world-wide are PADI-affiliated. Thanks to their online database, your certification can be easily looked up if you forgot it.

Cons: The course did not come with any supplemental material, and while this was not my experience, PADI is sometimes accused of being overly expensive.

In sum: I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn about both organizations and courses, but ultimately I feel like having a PADI certification will be more beneficial in in the long-term.

Dive Schools

Thus far, I’ve engaged with three different dive schools in Eilat.

Marina Divers – 1/5.

Marina was the first place I went, and I left after my one-star course to do my two-star elsewhere. To explain why, I’ll quote my TripAdvisor review at length:

“I recently had an extremely frustrating experience at Marina Divers. I had previously let them know that I was interested in getting my Open Water and Advanced OW certification with them. A few weeks later, they contacted me and told me there was another English-speaking person who would do a semi-private course with me. I was then quoted two prices; one for the 5-day, one-star course, and another for the combined one- and two-star course. I never received any sort of full price list, nor do they list one on their website.

When I arrived at Marina Divers, I was told that the other person canceled. However, they offered to put me with the non-private Hebrew-speaking class and accommodate with English as best as possible. I was told that I could pay for the one-star course (at the quoted price) and upgrade to the two-star course later. As I was never told any other price, I assumed that in order to upgrade, I would pay the difference between the two prices I was originally quoted.

After two days of instruction, I decided I wanted to continue to get my two-star certification. When I informed the management that I would like to pay for the additional two days, I was told that I would have to pay a price 350 more shekels than I expected. Confused, I questioned why this price was being quoted. The following day, they countered with a price that was still 200 shekels more than I would have expected.

Throughout this, I was engaging with a woman who acted as a sort of receptionist/assistant manager. I asked to speak to the manager to try to understand why I was being charged a figure that was more than what I had been quoted at the beginning of the week. The manager came out of his office to confront me in the main area of the dive club. When I tried to explain why I was confused about the pricing, he completely shut me down. He told me that his decisions were “none of my business” and to accept the price or leave. He used aggressive body language and became instantly defensive, and I became visibly upset.

I wanted to give the club another chance, so that night, I wrote a thought-out email, explaining why I was confused about the pricing and why I was upset about the way the situation was being handled. (If anyone would like to read the email, feel free to contact me) The following morning, I was told that he had read it, chose not to respond personally in any way, and demanded the same amount of money. I took my business elsewhere.

While the instructors I worked with (Ezra & Daniel) were great and the equipment was fine, the horrible customer service experience I received severely tarnished my view of Marina Divers. I understood that I would have to pay more (because of the “accommodation for English” – which usually just required the instructor explaining himself twice). However, the prices they expected were not made clear to me, they demanded more money than I had ever been quoted, and then I was treated rudely and unfairly when I tried to get clarification. I am rarely the kind of person who gets upset and feels the need to write something like this, but the experience I had there cannot go unspoken.”

TL;DR: I felt like the management was incredibly rude and unaccommodating to me after THEY made the mistake of not clarifying what prices they expected at the beginning. After talking to multiple people, I realise that they might have felt like they could act that way because I am just a tourist.

HAH. Little do they know, I run this great and powerful blog and I can spread my message far and wide. Kidding again, but since I am in this country for a while, will be returning to Eilat multiple times and also have talked about my experience widely with both Israeli and non-Israeli friends. Will this really make any difference? Who knows. But I’ll keep complaining 😉

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note: I did not write my name on the card.

Lucky Divers – 4/5.

I came to Lucky after my negative experience with Marina and did their Advanced Open Water Course. I really liked my instructor, Rafi. They were also extremely conscious of our time. Over the course of the five days at Marina, we wasted hours of time. At Lucky, our briefings were concise, breaks were sufficiently short, and they prioritized our water time. Their location is also awesome – right on the sea’s edge.

The only complaint I have for them is that their equipment quality seemed to be lower. My wetsuit was pretty worn-out and my regulator seemed clunky. They do seem to be the most inexpensive option in Eilat, so it isn’t surprising that their gear isn’t brand-spanking-new.

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Rafi the homie

U-Dive – 5/5.

While I liked my experience at Lucky, I wanted to try somewhere new on my third trip to Eilat. A friend of a friend recommended U-Dive, and I now pass on that recommendation. The staff was friendly, attentive, and considerate – they were conscious of where I had previously dove and offered me new experiences. I did two guided dives with a great instructor, Kate, and two other divers. The equipment was newer and seemed to be maintained well. One of the things I appreciated about both Lucky and U-Dive was that they list their prices online, so you know that everyone is paying the same and you are clear on what they expect.

So that was a bit long, but I wanted to be thorough about my thoughts. Diving in the Red Sea is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (or for me now, a-few-times-in-a-lifetime). I think that I can confidently say that getting my scuba certification has changed me for the better and began a life-long relationship with a unique, thrilling hobby. I cannot wait to explore more of the marine world, in Eilat, at other sites in Israel, and in the years to come.

how much do we love eilat? a lot.

So I know I need to backtrack and talk about a lot of things but since it’s fresh on my mind: EILAT.

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In other words, paradise.

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So my parents are in town (!!!!!!) and we decided to spend the weekend in Eilat, at the southernmost point of Israel. Literally, it’s right at the point. Look to your right and you see Egypt; left and you see Jordan.

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dat’s where

Eilat is a quintessential resort town, and we were ready to relax. We arrived around 11 AM on Friday after a super-quick flight. The hotel, the Dan Eilat, was absolutely gorgeous. We were pleasantly surprised when told that our room had been upgraded, and even more so when we saw how spacious the room was. (TRAVEL TIP: the end of October seems to be a pretty slow season in Israel, but you can still get great weather. Definitely a good idea to beat the heat and crowds and go then.)

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the lobby at the Dan Eilat
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bruce chills

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After a lovely, fresh lunch at the Maman beachside restaurant, we spent the afternoon napping by the large hotel pools.

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sheil looked lovely at lunch and matched the plants

At night, we had a few drinks and nibbles at the notorious Three Monkeys Pub, and we listened to a great cover band. I almost teared up when they played one of my favourites, “Save Tonight” by Eagle Eye Cherry.

The next day, we set out to experience Eilat’s crowning glory, its coral reefs. We rented snorkelling gear and splashed into the water at Princess Beach, where we witnessed tons of beautiful coral and marine life. That evening, we were splashed again at the Wow! Splash Show at the Isrotel Royal Gardens. The musical spectacular thrilled us with dancing, acrobatics, and some of the wildest acts we’ve ever seen. The name “Wow” is completely justified; during some acts I couldn’t get out a single word except that. We ended the night enjoying some ice cream while rehashing the insanity of the show.

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On Sunday, we started our day at the Underwater Observatory and Marine Park, Eilat’s aquarium. I have to say, it was one of the best aquariums I’ve ever visited. While it wasn’t gigantic or incredibly high-tech, it’s proximity to the Red Sea and it’s exquisite exhibitions allowed for a wonderful experience. The UO is also pretty unbelievable – we descended 18 m to get a close encounter with the wild reef, marine life in its natural environment.

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After seeing so much aquamarine beauty, we were itching to get in the water. My dad and I decided to do an introductory scuba dive. Bruce is an accomplished (well, certified) diver, but I had never been on a real dive before. I was a bit nervous, but the whole experience was FANTASTIC. I had a sweet instructor who held my hand as we explored the depths. I loved the dive; I think I’m hooked (fishy pun intended).

We headed back to the northern beach and on a whim, decided to stop at a small, unassuming fish & chips place. Our first plan was to just get one dish, then head to another restaurant, maybe sample a few dishes from around the boardwalk. That plan was scrapped as soon as we took a bit of the delectable fried shrimp and garlicky potatoes at this place. We also polished off some of the best mussels in white wine that we’ve ever had; we couldn’t stop singing our praises to the chef. For the best food and best value in Eilat, you have to check out this place. Unfortunately, I cannot figure out what the name of it is for the life of me, but here’s its moniker:

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The next day, we packed up, finally hit the hotel’s breakfast buffet – which was mind-blowing, by the way – and went back to the tiny airport to fly back up north. Although our time in Eilat was short, it was insanely memorable and enjoyable. My parents had a wonderful vacation-within-vacation, and I cannot wait to come back sometime in the next few months.

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