Donna and Steve are missionaries serving in Southeast Asia.

The Languages of Culture: Written



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Steve and Donna’s Story

I was going to try and bring a little bit of home back into my new home here in Southeast Asia. That involved making pancakes for my family.

Judging a box by its cover.

I went to the store and  purchased what looked like Betty Crocker pancake mix. I was so excited to see it in the store where I shopped. I just picked up the box and put it in the cart, got home, unpacked it, and put it in the cabinet. I didn’t really think much about  it until the day came for me to make my pancakes.

Now I’m not good with recipes to begin with. And on pancake day, I took the box out of the cupboard expecting this to be an ordinary box of Betty Crocker pancake mix based on what was pictured and written on the front of the box.

So, I turned the box around to see exactly what supplies I was supposed to be getting out.

I discovered that the front of the box was written in English and the back of the box was written in Hindi. And, I do not read or write in Hindi.

Immediately taken aback by the fact that this is not what I thought it was, and realizing I can’t read the instructions written on the back of the box, I started to look for other clues on the box. There really were no visual clues that I could work with.

Unequal measures.

Then, in looking at measurements, hoping they would be in the imperial system like I’m used to, I discovered they were in metric. All of my measuring spoons that I had brought with me, all of my things to cook with, were not going to be right.

Now I was having to convert measurements in my head from the imperial system to the metric system. That was a cultural journey all in itself. So while I’m converting all these different things over, I also realize the total lack of supplies that I actually have on hand.

It quickly came to my knowledge that I didn’t have a mixing bowl . . . only a thermos that I brought with me. Using a big cup, I started pouring my pancake ingredients into this thermos. Next, I’m having to use a plastic spoon to mix this pancake mix within the thermos, all the while not really knowing if my measurements are right or not.

Both sides matter.

It turned out that what I thought was going to be an easy morning with a quick breakfast with pancakes, turned out not to be an easy morning with quick pancakes at all.

In the end the pancakes were edible. My family was fine and it was a pretty good adventure to start the morning. And, I learned to read what’s written on the front and the back before I assume I have all the ingredients.