A Turning Point
Ginny’s husband was eleven years her senior, and when he was fifty-five, he too was jaded of the materialistic way of life in Singapore. He proposed to Ginny about uprooting their lives and moving to Nicaragua to set up a farm, propelled by a dream to create jobs for the locals. “Without any hesitation, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
When Ginny first arrived in the country, she did not quite know what to make of it. “The locals were poor, and did not have any money on them. Yet they were happy. In Nicaragua, you need not worry about food, for there is an abundance of sources. Want rice? You can grow it in the fields. Want prawns? The river teems with them. And here I was, a haughty millionaire, grumpy and with a brewing anger. ”
For the next two decades, the couple led a quiet life, driving their Harley-Davidson jeeps around. Flanking their farm were three waterfalls, and they spent many carefree days lost in the music of nature. Possessing jejune knowledge of farm operation, they left their asset in the care of the locals, an ill move that eventually rang up losses. But they felt true bliss.
All good things, sadly, must come to an end. Hitherto in the pink of health, Peter was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder, and his body began shutting down in the manner of a kaput computer. Only six months it was between his initial diagnosis and his eventual passing, and the untimely death of her husband disarrayed Ginny’s life. “Before he died, Peter said to me: ‘Ginny, I’m leaving all my possessions to you. You’ll be taken care of, and you’ll lead a good life.’”
Betrayals All Around
Suddenly thrust with the responsibility of making legal decisions, Ginny felt the heft of being the sole inheritor of her husband’s multi-million assets. The legal speak was mumbo jumbo to her; and the contracts were drafted in Spanish which she did not understand. She confided in a Korean lady who ran the beauty salon she frequented, her only acquaintance in Nicaragua who was well versed in Spanish. “She said she’d take care of everything for me, and I trusted her.” For three years, they remained on friendly terms, and Ginny would even cook Chinese cuisines for her.
It was only when a buyer showed interest in the farm that the truth came to light: The Korean lady had misled Ginny into transferring all the assets to her. “I was in Singapore at the time because of a health scare, and when my lawyer broke the news over the phone a numbness took hold of my body. I could not believe it.” What ensued was a legal battle, but Ginny fell prey to the rampant corruption, losing another fifty thousand dollars as her lawyer jumped ship.
With setback after setback, and still reeling from the loss of her husband, Ginny’s fighting spirit whittled. Once a devout Christian, she also lost her faith, renouncing her religion and refusing to follow a terrible God. She returned to Nicaragua, and there she stayed for some time, wallowing in self-pity, and hating herself for her asinine mistakes. “I just wanted to die,” she recalls. Her chance came, when an earthquake rocked the country in April 2014. “I did nothing. I just slept in my bed. My dogs were crying. I remember nothing of it except for the tremors.”
Standing on Her Own Two Feet
When she awoke, Ginny lamented the fact that she was still alive. In the face of sheer emotional agony, she began medicating herself, smoking marijuana cigarettes that gave her moments of clarity and peace. One day, she was on her computer searching the news when she chanced upon Matt Redman’s uplifting 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord).
“Though I lost my faith, the lyrics resonated with me, and I began reminiscing about the life I’ve had with my husband. And what a life it was: To have loved someone so deeply, and at one point to have it all.” Like seasoned wood to a withering fire the song was, and Ginny’s resolve reignited and burnt the hotter. She packed the remnants of her old life, flew back to Singapore along with her dogs, and now stays with her two daughters.
No longer content with being a deadweight, Ginny began looking for a part-time job. Rejections came, as boutique owners found her too old to be a salesperson. She applied for a job at a supermarket, but never got a callback. Finally, through a friend, she found online portals such as Fuss.sg, which connect homeowners with cleaners.
“My friend was initially startled that I even considered to be a house cleaner, as I had never worked a day in my life before. But I was not afraid of getting my hands dirty.” However hardened and motivated she was, Ginny still had butterflies in her stomach on the day of her first assignment. She did not know where to start. A windowpane would eventually be her stumbling block: The harder she wiped the more smudges appeared. Panicked, she immediately called her friend, who came to her rescue. “It was then I learnt that cleaning rags were oily, and that I had to use the newspaper when cleaning windows.” Such tricks of the trade Ginny had to learn, painstakingly, at the age of sixty-five, a time when her peers would start enjoying their golden years. From an unhappy first customer who discontinued her services, Ginny now has a few regulars to call her own.
For all that back-breaking work, Ginny only earns a fraction of what she used to enjoy. Her old life of high tea and tennis sessions is no more, torn away like clouds sundered by the wind. Yet what is revealed is the blaze of the glorious sun. “For the first time in my life, I have worked for everything that I own. My clothes have holes in them, but I no longer care about what others might think of me. This is the real me, and I’m not just an Elizabeth-Taylor replica. I do not need to be rich; I only need to believe in myself.”
Enjoyed this story? Read Dr Siew Tuck Wah on Breaking the Poverty Cycle, Saving Singapore’s Street Dogs and Finding Buddhism.
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