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December is almost over and a new year is just around the corner. No matter where you happen to be this holiday season, we hope you’ve decked your halls, hung some mistletoe, and have all your gifts bought, wrapped, and sitting under the tree!

This month, giving takes on a whole new meaning in The Telegram. Learn about some unique gift-giving customs around the world and read about the gift of education in Afghanistan. For those teachers who find themselves far away from the comforts of home around the holidays, Teach Away is happy to give you the perfect recipe for Christmas cheer, so read on!

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! And a Joyous Holiday Season to All!
-The Teach Away Team

In this issue:

Gift Giving Around the World

The Gift of Education

Our Gift to You: Eggnog Recipe

Announcing Photo Contest Winner

Gift Giving Around the World

GIfts from around the worldFor many people, ‘tis the season to find the perfect gift for friends and loved ones. For those living abroad, traditions which remind us of home become all the more important at this time of year; however learning about the customs of one’s host country is an invaluable part of enjoying time away from friends and family. Whether or not you plan to partake in a gift exchange this December, read on to learn about some interesting gift-giving customs around the world!

While we westerners tend to rip open our presents in frenzied excitement, in Japan, this behaviour is generally frowned upon. It is not uncommon to see young children delicately opening their gifts, demonstrating an appreciation for the work that went into the wrapping. Even before getting your hands on the gift, it is best to first ask for permission to open it. To do otherwise would be considered impolite. In the UAE on the other hand, the recipient will not hesitate to open his gift right away, and will go so far as to inspect it right in front of the person who gave it to him– especially if a man has been presented with silver jewellery. Because gold jewellery is considered a gift choice for women only, this inspection is a search for a proper government mark which tells him that his jewellery is, in fact, silver and not an effeminate white-gold.

An interesting wedding tradition in Korea finds parents of newlyweds giving them a variety of gifts; however, to be on the safe side, they will make sure not to present the groom with a pair of shoes—just in case he decides to use them to run away before the big day! In Japan, on the other hand, even numbers are a no-no when choosing a wedding gift. Forget those dinner settings for a family of four; five plates is much more acceptable for the simple reason that an even-numbered gift can be split evenly, and this is considered a symbol of separation or divorce.

Don’t bring a typical bottle of wine or framed portrait to a housewarming party in Korea. When someone moves into a new home, it is much more appropriate to bring over something practical, like toilet paper! And when moving in to a new place in Japan, don’t expect your neighbours to appear at your door to welcome you with a platter of cookies; instead, you should take it upon yourself to be nice and neighbourly with a knock on your neighbour’s door, a brief introduction, and a gift of dish soap or laundry detergent. Don’t try this in Saudi Arabia, where it is common to only give gifts to very close friends. Presenting a neighbour or an acquaintance with a gift would be so embarrassing that it would border on offensive.

The Gift of Education

The Afghan Project

Is there anything better than the gift of education? Other than chocolate, arguably the answer is no. As teachers, providing an education to those in need is a given; but for many of you, receiving an education is most likely a lifelong journey as well. From those first days of school to the crazy college years to those language classes you take after work, the gift of education is definitely one that keeps on giving. However, for those of us raised in countries where education is a right, it is easy to forget about less privileged nations, where regular people have little or no access to schools, and may go through great challenges just to get access to books.

But let’s stay away from the Grinch-like gloom and doom this Christmas, and think about the positive! As an organization that works with international education programs and inspiring educators (yes, you!) day in and day out, Teach Away would like to take a moment to highlight an amazing program, The Afghan School Project, in this month’s Telegram. A dedicated group of Canadian educators have volunteered their time to implementing this education initiative in Afghanistan. Its purpose is to help educate young, Afghan women who would at best be refused entrance, or at worst, harmed for going in to school. So how can you help?

When it comes to charities, every little bit counts. But as our wallets get lighter around the holidays, we aren’t necessarily motivated to empty them altogether. What if we told you that there were alternative ways to help give the gift of education to these young women? Whether you are a seasoned teacher who has long seen the value of education and would like to take part in this wonderful initiative or a recent grad who simply hopes to add some volunteer work to your resume, the Afghan School Project is a truly inspiring project to get involved with.

As you begin thinking about your New Year’s resolutions this year, why not consider devoting some of your time in 2011 to an important project such as this one? How about seeking out a similarly inspiring volunteer organization to take part in wherever you happen to be in the world? Or you could simply brainstorm how you can make a difference for the children in your classroom, and actively implement your new ideas.

If you want to do what you do best for a good cause, what better time than now to give the gift of education?

Our Gift to You This Season: An Eggcellent Eggnog Recipe

Whether you’re missing eggnog or wondering about this crazy yellow drink your North American friends keep referring to each December, we have an antidote for an eggnog-less December for you!

A great way to beat a case of not-home-for-the-holidays blues is to introduce some of your own customs into your daily life abroad. Although you may have never considered making your own eggnog back home (Why would you when you can run over to the nearest supermarket for a creamy cup each December?), desperate times call for desperate measures.

Although it may take a few tries (and buff up your arm muscles in the process), once perfected, your homemade eggnog will ensure a very happy holiday season-no matter where you are in the world.

How to make your own eggnog (borrowed and tweaked – from About.com)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Makes 12-16 eggnog servings

Ingredients:
• 6 large eggs plus 2 yolks
• 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 4 cups whole milk
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Preparation:
Combine eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3- or 4-quart pan, whisking until well-combined. Continue whisking while pouring milk in a slow, steady stream until completely incorporated. Turn on burner to lowest possible heat setting. Place pan on burner and stir mixture continuously until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be patient. This should take about 45 to 60 minutes.

Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl to remove any accidental small cooked bits of egg. Add vanilla extract and nutmeg, stirring to combine. Pour into a glass pitcher, decanter, or container and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate this egg custard mixture to chill at least 4 hours or up to 3 days before finishing.

Serve eggnog in chilled cups or glasses and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Photo Contest – Winner

Desert in the UAE

Congratulations to Sarah Van Kruistum for getting a whopping 58 votes for her gorgeous ‘First Impressions’ photo (shown right)!

Sarah was the lucky winner of a Polaroid digital camera, compliments of Teach Away. We look forward to watching some of your videos of your life in the UAE, Sarah!

Honourable mention goes to Kate Rehbock who came in close second with 39 votes. Thanks for participating, Kate!

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