In the interests of transparency, I have to admit I have known Wendy Herbert for a while now, and am proud to call her my friend. Wendy is a prominent member of the local Hua Hin community and engages with locals in roles large and small, public and more private. In some ways, her exploits are flying under the radar here in Hua Hin. She is a seasoned professional, yet at the same time incredibly humble, a woman of many passions and accomplishments who makes a real difference to the Hua Hin community. Wendy is a role model to which many aspire, and she does all these things while holding down a full-time job as a communication trainer at a local international health resort. This job provides Wendy with a high degree of job satisfaction, even though it is demanding. Wendy thoroughly enjoys developing the English language and interpersonal communication skills of the business’s Thai employees and assists them to appreciate and build on their successes. She speaks with pride about helping them learn even quite sophisticated concepts like the role of Shakespeare in the English literary tradition. Wendy Herbert is one classy, hard-working woman.
The first observation I would like to make of Wendy is that she is a woman of seemingly boundless energy and optimism. I don’t know exactly where the energy comes from as Wendy was a bit reticent to share all her dietary secrets with me, but to misquote a well-known line from Meg Ryan in the movie “When Harry met Sally”, I’d sure like to have what she is having. Her optimism is easier to pin down. Her favourite saying encapsulates her outlook on life – “Fortune favours the brave “. Wendy confronts her life and its challenges head-on, though she will tell you she is learning to be more gentle with herself and to ask for help when she needs it.
Wendy was born in New Zealand, raised in Australia and has lived more than 30 years in various places in Asia and so likes to call herself an Australasian. But her ability to talk straight, her wicked sense of humour and her need to feel the sand between her toes all mark her as an Aussie to the core.
Many of the readers of this article will be expats who have retired to Hua Hin. Indeed, Wendy will tell you that the thing she likes most about Hua Hin is that it has all that you need for a very comfortable lifestyle. So, I asked her what she intends to eventually do in retirement as Hua Hin will be “been there, done that!”. Wendy isn’t planning on retiring, ever. She will work until she drops. She laughingly claims to suffer from adult-onset hyperactivity, and in almost the same breath asks me to confirm in this article that she is a statuesque 5 foot 11 inches tall and weighs around 50 kilograms.
Wendy is continually setting herself new goals to achieve, and they often include taking others with her on the journey. Many locals will know that in 2022, Wendy has one new challenge a week to master. She explained to me the grey fog she felt descend upon her in 2021, a very bleak year with the onset of Covid. Like many people world-wide, she felt adrift, hoping moment to moment for some clarity about when the situation would improve, yet still trapped in one spot. “Like Groundhog Day, but without the humour,” were her words. She admits she had it relatively easy during Covid, she had her job, her home, her friends, but she couldn’t seem to recall what she did last week, let alone last month or before that. So, in 2022, she would have a new challenge each week, something to mark the passage of time and give her a sense of achievement. Now, instead of feeling emotionally depleted, Wendy can truly live in the present and claim that she has learnt macrame, improved her hula-hooping skills, is fluent with using the Thai names of the days of the week and can make a mean tiramisu, amongst other things. Each step a new life skill.
Wendy has a strong thirst for knowledge for its own sake and is a passionate lifelong learner, reader and author. She was given a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica many years ago now and has read it cover to cover on more than one occasion. Wendy is an avid reader who still prefers an actual book over its electronic equivalent. She usually has several books on the go at the one time and provides a safe refuge for unloved and unwanted books. Wendy has a strong interest in autobiographies and non-fiction, though for something light she might revert to a crime or detective fiction. She too is concerned that in certain parts of the world, there is a trend towards anti-intellectualism and the devaluing of knowledge. Still on her “must-do list” are finishing the two books she has partly written, seeing the aurora borealis and having even more fun. She wants to be able to claim to be having fun at least 51% of the time and is keen to contribute her skills to bring a good time to others too.
As a regular participant at Wendy’s monthly quiz night at Surf & Sand, I know why I attend. It is a great chance to exercise my brain in a shared environment and have a drink or two at the same time. When I asked Wendy what was in it for her, and why she would put in the 8 to 10 hours of effort it takes her monthly to organise the quiz, her face lit up. She admitted there is a certain ego element in needing to perform with a microphone – when the bloody thing works – but her main payoff is just the joy she experiences seeing others have fun. Her involvement in monthly quiz nights in Hua Hin goes back nearly 6 years. That’s dedication for you, all unpaid. Wendy’s involvement in quiz nights goes back even further in Hong Kong, where she was engaged in a paid capacity to run a highly profitable, cash-in-hand quiz at the Trafalgar Pub for many years.
Wendy attended a prestigious but public, selective girls’ high school in Sydney. She admits to being mid-range nerdy and often reading a book moving around the playground and the corridors. She states her attendance at the school was life-saving as she was one of a cohort of 120 girls, many of them more nerdy than herself, some so clever as to be almost unintelligible to the average person. She made many strong friendships at school and still goes to 10-yearly reunions, the last attended by 85 of her year group.
While still at school, Wendy began working part-time at weekends and on holidays in the media, a career that was going to become one of her life-long passions, along with all aspects of the theatre. At school, she was a highly competent public speaker and debater and this will not surprise anyone who knows Wendy. She didn’t formalise her qualifications in media studies until quite a few years later as her career path took a divergence due to motherhood. With her now ex-husband, at one point Wendy had 3 children under the age of 5 to care for. Clearly, she was and is a wonderful and dedicated mother. Her countenance glows when she speaks of the joys and challenges of raising her children as independent “expat kids”, loving them and then enabling them to follow their own life paths, fully equipped to “adult on their own”.
All her children, who now range in age from almost 29 to 34 years of age, are successful in their chosen careers. Her eldest works in a production company in Las Angeles owned by Jason Mamoa, of Aquaman fame, and will have a movie shot next year using a script she wrote herself. Wendy is certainly a proud mamma bear, who one day hopes to become an even prouder grandma bear.
Earlier this year Wendy had the opportunity to re-engage with her acting in the one-woman play, Marge Skaluba – Pissy’s wife. Less well-publicised is that all the profits from the production were used to support a local charity endeavour. Wendy Herbert keeps her philanthropic efforts very low-key.
Wendy is a great role-model to the community when it comes to remaining physically active as well. She usually starts the day with a sunrise walk, which she frequently documents on her FB page. If circumstances make her morning walk impossible, she is left feeling sad. “You are a long time dead”, is how Wendy put it.
For those who, like me, find Wendy Herbert a fascinating woman, here is a little personal trivia. Wendy can’t live without good, dark chocolate, preferably coating an almond or even a creamy macadamia. Her greatest weakness is that she overthinks things. Her best friend would say she always has a crazy idea lurking somewhere in her head. The one thing that always makes her happy is knowing the people she cares about are well. And finally, if she could choose her last meal, it would involve a huge lobster and some scallops on the half-shell, slathered in garlic butter under the grill, washed down with prosecco and followed by a slice of Sacher torte.
It sounds good to me.