Day 33, 34, 35: Scuba Diving - Sean Goldring

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For me, scuba diving was the option that really stood out to be a highlight of IST. Doing four separate dives in Eilat, one of which reached a depth of 12 metres, was  definitely not to be missed.

It started out with a long bus ride from Jerusalem to Eilat which took approximately 4-5 hours. Upon our arrival we were greeted at the dive shop with delicious burgers from 'Burgers Bar' and were forced to scoff them down quickly as we were running behind schedule and were soon going to run out of daylight. We were handed our wetsuits and after struggling to put them on, found ourselves in the water with basic snorkelling gear. Boogie, our instructor, proceeded to give us a snorkelling master class, as well as seeing how long we could hold our breaths for. We were taught basic snorkelling techniques and were then given permission to head to the hot showers to warm up from the freezing water. After we finished heating up we were given a book containing all the essential things we needed to know before officially beginning to scuba dive. We were given overnight to read all essential chapters and many of us did so… I unfortunately took the words "optional reading" a little to seriously. Our 'scuba group' then bussed back to the hotel which we would be staying at for the next 2 nights. After our respective showers we proceeded to our hotels cheder ochel for a slightly disappointing dinner as it didn’t live up to the standards of regular Israeli food. It even gave some of us flashbacks to the horrors of the food we were subjected to eat in Poland.

Our excitement at being able to go to the boardwalk of Eilat where we were told we would be able to buy some scrumptious food in order to make up for our poor dinner was undeniable. I ate pancakes and froyo and enjoyed a nice stroll through the mall and markets, which had spectacular views of the beach and lots of beautiful lights. One great attraction of the boardwalk was the mini amusement park which contained a ride called the 'fireball' where we were slingshotted into the sky and then dropped into a brief free fall before being slingshotted  back up once again. Many of us did this ride and came out with both a huge adrenaline rush and in absolute shock. Fair to say we all felt pretty proud of ourselves for committing to this terrifying ride. We then walked back to the hotel and went to bed with a 10.30 curfew even though most people stayed up till 12.00 in order to celebrate the New Year. And despite the fact we all missed Sydney, we all felt a little less homesick when we were greeted with spectacular fireworks from our friendly neighbours - the country of Jordan - which we could see from out hotel. We all went to bed content, excited for the new year and looking forward to a full, fun-fledged day of Scuba Diving on New Years Day.

We began New Years Day, thrilled to go scuba diving; for most of us, it would be our first time, but once again, we were greeted with a shocking breakfast. We jumped onto the bus with an 8.15am deadline.  If anyone was late they were to miss the entirety of Scuba diving - safe to say we were all on the bus before the clock hit 8:10. After a 5 minute bus ride we arrived at our scuba destination. The group was split into half, one would learn the theoretical aspects and safety of diving, and the rest of the group would begin diving right away. I ended up sitting through 4 hours of listening to Ezra (one of the instructors) talk about equalisation of the ears, buoyancy and all the various dangers of diving. To my surprise there were many things that could go wrong whilst 12 metres deep that I wasn’t aware of.

We had shwarma for lunch and soon it was my turn to go Scuba diving. We were given demonstrations of all the gear and after much doubt over my wetsuit which had a gaping hole in it, 4 boys were walking into the water to go for their first 1.5 metre dive. Once underwater I was TERRIFIED. I was not used to being underwater and breathing at the same time. The instructor began to demonstrate various drills that we must mock, such as filling up our mask with water and emptying it, and eventually taking it completely off and putting it back on. Never did I know that a human instinct when your eyes are submerged in water was to stop breathing entirely. I began to relax after putting my mask back on and suddenly I started shaking anxiously from what was believed to be hyperthermia. The hole in my suit had let cold water in. I eventually walked out of the water, complaining with Jared Shuman about how we will never do such a thing as scuba diving again. However, 20 minutes later we found ourselves doing our second dive, down to 6 metres and this time we walked out of the water in a glorious mood, exclaiming with extreme excitement over how we couldn’t wait to dive again the following day. We warmed ourselves up in hot showers and gave our gear back to the dive shop. The bus took us back to our hotel where we got ready to go to the boardwalk again for dinner and chills. We walked back from the boardwalk where many kids crashed and had a shloof as soon as their head hit their pillows.

A 6.30am wakeup again saw us all jumping out of bed ready for our second day of diving. Most of us were prepared for bad food so we bought cereal and milk to compensate. The bus deadline was 8.15am again which we all made in time. As soon as we arrived my group got to go in first for our 9 metre dive. We all remembered how to put on our gear and were anxiously waiting for our guide to give us the all clear to go. My diving group; Adam Lipshitz, Jared Shuman, Noah Stern and I all loved that dive. As we did our various drills once again I found that they were significantly easier than before and we even practiced taking off our masks and having our regulators out from our mouths at the same time. We all surfaced slowly to avoid a burst lung and swam back to shore to replace our tanks for our final dive of IST. We all couldn’t wait to dive a full 12 metres and once again we waiting anxiously for the all clear to go. We began diving deeper and deeper and eventually we reached 12 metres. There were many fish around consisting of parrot fish and scorpion fish and also, some remains of a shipwreck. Being 12 metres deep underwater was like being in another world. Nothing to worry about, peace and complete serenity. It was so different from being in the over-world. We eventually surfaced when one of us reached a half tank of air and we were all very happy to have completed our diving certification for an open water 12 metre license.

We got back onto the shore and gave back all of our equipment, had a hot shower and changed into dry clothes. We had a lunch of Big Apple pizza and then proceeded to fill in forms in order to get our scuba licenses. We then relaxed on the beach whilst the other half of the group did their final scuba dive. Overall I think that I chose the right IST option for me. Scuba diving will become something I love doing and will continue to do throughout my life. It made me escape my comfort zone often and test myself in conditions which I have never been in before.

Day 33, 34, 35: Volunteering - Courteney Zoellner and Jordana Cohen

Day 33: Netzach, Israel - Leila Freedman