Happily ever after

Mr & Mrs Bruce MaCrae Smith
in Singapore, 1965
Mrs Alison Moh MacRae Smith, 74, who lived abroad for almost 40 years, decided to retire in Johor Baru as a participant of the Malaysia My Second Home programme.

I was born in Batu Pahat, the eldest in a family of six siblings.  I was keen on a career in nursing so after completing secondary school in 1957, I moved to Singapore to start training as a student nurse.  Around this time, I met Bruce MacRae Smith, a Scottish man who was then working in Singapore, and we were married in 1960.

While we lived in Singapore for the next 20 years, I became a Singapore citizen.  After I had worked as a nurse for several years, I decided to quit and went to help with the admin work in a ship repair firm that belonged to my husband’s friend.  My husband was in shipping and we used to live in Europe for about four months a year.  

In 1980 when our son was 12 years old, we decided to relocate to France.  My husband had bought a 35-acre property in Lot Etgaronne, a nature reserve with woodland that had walking tracks and a stream running through.  There were also sections farmed with vines, vegetables, wheat, corn and barley.

View of Guirot Bas, our property that
was run as a holiday resort in France
We thought it was a very pretty place and our neighbours encouraged us to convert some of the farmhouses on our property into a holiday resort as they did with their own properties.  So we built a swimming pool and furnished two of the farmhouses as self-catering holiday homes.  Our resort we called, Guirot Bas, was very popular with families especially in the summer.

I was kept busy as the housekeeper and I enjoyed sewing pillow cases with the help of a Singer sewing machine.  I did not have any sewing lessons but had learnt to sew by watching my mother because in our childhood days, she sewed all our clothes.  I also learnt to use the internet and email because our guests’ reservations and enquiries were made online.

My husband and I used to holiday in Malaysia and we would visit members of my family who still live in Batu Pahat and Petaling Jaya.  After my husband passed away four years ago, I decided to sell Guirot Bas and in October 2010, I came to Malaysia for a holiday.  Just one week into the 3-week holiday, I suffered a peritonitis attack and needed a colostomy.

Alison with grandson, Youenn, at their farm in France, 2003
I was hospitalized for two months after the surgery in Petaling Jaya and when I was well enough to travel, the insurance company was ready to repatriate me back to France.  Since I was widowed, my siblings had been urging me to relocate to Malaysia but I did not give it much thought.  Then while I was recuperating in the hospital, I reached at a decision to stay on in Malaysia. 

I returned to Batu Pahat, our hometown, and stayed with my brother and his family until I was well again.  I knew that if I stayed with my siblings, I would only impose on their kind hospitality because they have families of their own.  So I started to search for retirement homes from the internet and decided on settling in Johor Baru because the city has a Singapore Consulate.

My brother graciously drove me to the various homes in Johor Baru to review the facilities and I selected one that could help me renew my visa to stay in this country.  Having lived in a temperate country for 30 years, I found the weather here quite humid at first but I gradually adjusted to it.  I know nothing is perfect so I told myself not to have too high expectations to avoid being disappointed.

Alison Moh MaCrae Smith now lives
happily ever after in Johor, Malaysia
Now I enjoy my leisure by reading from the internet on my laptop computer and writing emails to my son and grandson.  I also sew my own clothes by hand because I don’t have a sewing machine.  I’m grateful that I still don’t need to use spectacles because my eyesight is still good!

From the internet, I read about a newly opened care home in Kulaijaya and started to make enquires with them, in particular about my visa renewal.  They in turn, introduced me to Consensusbiz (MM2H) Sdn Bhd, an authorized agent for the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme.  After consulting them, they started the documentation process about six months ago and in May 2012, I obtained approval for a long-term social visit pass for 10 years as a MM2H participant.

I recently moved into the new care home in Kulaijaya and am enjoying the comfort and care they provide.  While I may miss eating my green salads with olive oil and cider vinegar dressing, I can savour more local fruits like papaya and guava and am looking forward to tasting durians.  After running a holiday resort for the last 20 years, I feel very carefree now as I no longer have to do any housekeeping work!

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 6 July 2012

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