Final Episode of the Story about the Woman with a Large Sense of Duty

September 2, 2008

Continuing the story of my interactions with a woman from an Asian country that interacted with me over a number of computer classes recently.

In a striking way, her descriptions of herself changed over several conversations. Whether like David she has several “alternates,” (as preposterous as that sounds), or there is some other explanation, I don’t know.

I found her a little difficult to understand at times. English is probably not her “first” language. Her vocabulary and syntax are excellent, but she has a strong accent, and I have a bad “ear.” By that I don’t mean that my hearing is going (though as I age, it is weakening a bit), but I have a hard time coping with accents and dictions that are unusual to me. This fault probably has something to do with why I never had much success in learning other languages, while some of my relatives have been gifted linguists.

Also, as both (..) (as I call her to protect her anonymity) and I felt a growing rapport (perhaps because we are both people often mistaken as hostile by others), her words began to pour forth in a stream of consciousness torrent that also made it difficult for me to understand.

In regard to her husband, who had unexpectedly left her after what she had thought had been twenty years of agreeable marriage, she told me that he was a person who seemed to detect something lacking in himself and felt he could find it in something external-objects such as a new job, a new car, or a new woman.

She began to comment about her culture. (I have no idea if her husband came from her Asian culture or if he had been an American.) What I gleaned from what she told me was that her culture put a strong emphasis on “duty.” She seemed to feel it was a couple’s “duty” to maintain their marriage after the original excitement and passion faded. It would never have occurred to her parents or grandparents to divorce, she said.

I asked her if she might ever marry again.

She said she might, but she would have to be sure that there was real compatibility. By this statement, I got the impression that she meant the same attachment to duty and the same realistic expectation that each would not find fulfillment and meaning through another person.


When she told me that she had lost a job after 20 years, my first impression was that she was at a complete loss about how to get another job and felt that her skills were quite deficient. However, by the third day of having her in classes (over a two-week period), it was clear to me that she is very intelligent and that she was picking up what I taught quickly (and perhaps already knew more than she gave herself credit for).

On the second day of our encounters, she asked me for help on a confusion on her email account. As I helped her with her email I could see that she was engaged in an active job search and was not “helpless” in trying to find a new job (the impression she had made at first).


On the third day of our encounters, she took two word processing classes from me which take students to a higher level. A severe problem in the classes I teach is that students have little idea of how to place themselves in a class, so I often have students of widely differing levels in classes.

Over time, I have developed techniques and skills for quickly diagnosing where students are (both as individuals and as a group) and then doing a quick “triage” if someone is very far ahead or behind the rest of the group. I discuss this fairly openly with my classes, explaining that I can’t meet everybody’s needs and desires and some people will be “sacrificed” for the good of the main group.


As I started a “level 2” class, (..) noted that the material repeated much of “level 1.” I explained to her that this was a technique to provide review and catch up as needed. If the class was actually at a “level 2” level I would speed through the “review material” quickly.

I then told her and the others in the class that after two previous days of working together well, she had become a “teacher’s pet” and I would use her as a benchmark for how fast to go. This was a fairly dangerous move on my part, but everyone seemed to take it well. Fortunately, everyone in the class seemed to be at a fairly appropriate level, allowing the class as a whole to move quickly. Within 15 or 30 minutes, everyone felt as they were a teacher’s pet, so I felt as if I had a room full of happy Sylvies all purring. (Sylvie is my daughter’s little cat who is sort of an uber pet.) It is not always like this, but some days go well.


At first, preoccupied with what I was teaching and with the class as a whole, I didn’t quite pick up when (..) said something about not coming to any more classes for a while because she would be busy with her job. Suddenly what she had said penetrated my consciousness.


“What! You got a job?” I said.

“Oh, yes,” she said in an offhand manner. “I got a job with XXX School District.”

It turned out that the job was as an office assistant. When she told me on the second day that she had worked for a hospital and gave the impression that the job was sort of a “low level, unskilled” one, I had guessed she had worked in custodial or food services. Apparently the job had been a clerical one (or something of that nature).


In any case, she was close to ebullient or as close to ebullient that she is likely to get. Actually, I suspect that she travels through a variety of fairly intense emotional states in a day or even every five minutes or so.


Obviously, not all of her life crises were solved. Her husband of twenty years had left her; her son is a severely drifting slacker. However, as a person who obviously takes “duty” very seriously, she had a job where she could perform her duties with great seriousness and attention to duty; she can pay her bills (though she had not lamented about money problems to me, but I assume like most of us, it’s an issue she has to concern herself with), and she perhaps has a more solid base for confronting her other problems.

Thus ends (unless next week springs another mildly astonishing surprise) my four mini-Canterbury tales (all true as far as I can determine, though you will have to take my word for it) of four people confronting tragedies of life with a remarkable amount of cheer and pluck.

Damn. I hate being cheerful.

Well, my wife and I had a very strenuous week taking care of Random Granddaughter. She is a handful. In fact a handful of handfuls, as you shall see.


4 Responses to “Final Episode of the Story about the Woman with a Large Sense of Duty”

  1. pandemonic Says:

    My mother was Asian, so I understand the “duty” thing. She was raised to put the husband first as well. Sounds kind of antiquated now, but that was only 40 years ago, and I think the entire world was that way. Witness an episode of “Leave it to Beaver” and you see what I’m getting at.

    The other thing I wanted to say is that many Asian women are crazy nuts. No, for real. Where my son lives in SF, as you know, is mostly Asian. Although he is part Asian, he was never around that many in one place before. His comment to me is that Asian women are nuts. I said, “Well, you didn’t know your grandma (my mother, because she died) because she was the queen of kooky.” Mr. Demonic Jr. then went on to tell me how nuts he thought I was. Well, I admit, I am partially nuts. I have that heavy Mediterranean-Scottish-French-American Indian stuff on the other side. I think there are some nuts on that side of the tree too.

    But I digress. If my mother were alive today, people would say she was bi-polar. I am so consciously aware of mental illness, that I will go to a therapist as soon as I feel myself getting nutty, which has happened upon cyclical occasions.

  2. modestypress Says:

    No wonder we so vibrate on the same wave-length, Pandemonic. In my family, it’s the Jewish thing, which seems to be equally loopy as your Asian chick thing. Except for my cousin Joanna, who moved to Taiwan, became fluent in Chinese, and became a millionaire. However, she always struck me as quite sensible. Perhaps the Jewish part and the Chinese part canceled each other out.

    My father’s mother I think was a narcissist personality (like David’s dad, perhaps). My father’s three sisters to some degree are narcissist, though all function close enough to real human beings to get by.

    One of my brothers was recently diagnosed as bi-polar. He makes me very nervous; so I’m probably on the edge of bipi, though I’ve only dipped into clin-dep so far. One of my sisters, on the other hand, is probably somewhere out past narcissist, but as she’s never married or even coupled, perhaps the damage she’s done is minimal. She became a fundamentalist Christian at 13 or so and seems mostly to hang out in Vietnames and Hispanic fundamentalist churches in Southern California. How far back she has set race relations is probably beyond calculation.

  3. modestypress Says:

    Hello veritas,

    I just looked at your blog. I have never been to Kenya, but I had a very strange experience with an Indian from Kenya a few years ago. I hope to blog about it one of these days. (No comments allowed at your blog.) I hope you drop in again one of these days.

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