An obsessive quest

We had only just made it out of the gate of the house when one of those WTF is that questions hit us.  Our next door neighbours are a wonderfully friendly family, the youngest of whom is an adorable one year old who grins, waves and blows kisses on demand and is generally cute in the extreme.


Yesterday however, something had occurred.  Adorable cute one year old was as usual grinning at us as we exited the gate as usual but this time was doing so replete with gravy browning type stains smeared across her eyebrows.


Linda and I both greeted, grinned and cooed as usual uttering loud cheery hellos before walking off resolutely and three paces down the road uttering “what was that!” almost in unison and then immediately breaking into fits of giggles (the latter has been a huge feature of my three days in the company of Linda and I look forward to even more of it until she leaves).


We vaguely debated what might possibly have been occurring for the child to have been smeared in such a way and then forgot all about it being drawn in by the madness of entering the main street and wandering to town for sundowners and dinner.


We opted for the local Cambodian delicacy of fish and chips (plus mushy peas for me) and entered into a brief but highly entertaining debate surrounding the nature and relative merits or otherwise of mushy peas, a short extract from which follows:


Sara                      “Mushy peas are amazing, even more so when they’re accompanied by mint sauce”

Linda (A Kiwi!)   “I look at them and think: that’s not attractive – what a waste of a good pea!”


Having failed miserably to convince Linda of the merits of the humble processed pea and all its mushiness, I delved back into the realm of gravy eyebrows (a side note here is that the chippy in town also serves chips with gravy and yes it is owned by a Manc in case you were wondering), declaring to Linda, and anyone else who cared to listen, that I was going to consult the great God Google in order to resolve the mystery.


The following searches were carried out (along with a couple of other variations which I can no longer recall):


  • Why do Cambodians paint baby eyebrows brown
  • Dye baby eyebrows brown Cambodia (the number three hit for this one being a story about a child who DIED by swallowing a live fish in Cambodia)
  • Cambodia children eyebrows brown
  • Brown eyebrows Cambodia why
  • Asia brown paint on eyebrows


Trawling through the pictures element of the search drew some more giggles – here’s my two favourites for your viewing pleasure.

Other than that though we were hitting lots of brown eyebrow related dead ends (the nearest we got were some Indonesian posts about the use of Kajal on babies – Kajal apparently is the pigment used in mascara and various sources recommend or prohibit its use on babies and small children according to Linda who was on back up Google duty) and so we shifted our search to the idea that it may be a cure for some ailment or other.  Thus followed a number of searches using a mix and match approach to the following word bank:

medicine, children, eyebrow, traditional, Cambodia, baby, health, herbal


Linda got side tracked as she stumbled on a site aptly named Birth, Wind and Fire and spent the next twenty minutes regaling me with increasingly bizarre tales of pre and post birth rituals in Cambodia as I doggedly continued my Google based word mixing in a vain attempt to gain resolution.


Admitting defeat thoughts turned to who may be able to solve the mystery for us but again we hit dead ends with Phirum shedding no light and even long term expats who you would think had seen it all expressing incredulity and no explanation at all, let alone a plausible one.


And so here I sit, the next day, still non the wiser but no less desperate to find out why the beautiful little bundle of joy that is my new next door neighbour had gravy brown smears over both of her burgeoning one year old eyebrows on an average Thursday evening in the river town of Kampot.


Answers on a postcard please to…..


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