This blog post was originally written for the website

Out There – Doodles From Abroad: How It Came to Be


How should I introduce myself if you are just meeting me for the first time? How about with a doodle from my digital sketchbook and new series, Out There – Doodles From Abroad?


A simple yet smiley emoji-looking face is a great way to capture American idealism right before disaster strikes…


So from this sketch, you may have gathered that I am an American living in Myanmar (going on three years now) and that I normally have a cheerful disposition even as I walk right into all kinds of nastiness.

This quick cartoon was made at the start of January 2019 after connecting with my 7th-grade best friend on Facebook. We were having a conversation about how as kids, thanks to TV shows and books, we believed that quicksand would be more of a problem in our lives than it ever turned out to be. I then got to thinking that outside the USA, I avoid more realistic dangers like gun violence. But seeing as I was now in a tropical country, perhaps my odds of sinking into quicksand have gone up. (*I am told by the locals here that in fact, there is no quicksand in Myanmar, especially in Yangon where I live. Good to know!)

Excuse me just a moment. I have to clear a few ants off my desk. Such is life in every building in Myanmar… I’m beginning to think they secretly run the country.


We also have lizards…


Anyway, now I look back at my first cartoon as more of a metaphor. I originally came to Myanmar with my husband (a humanitarian who works for the world’s largest food aid organization) and two school-age sons. As an Associate Professor of Digital Media and artist for many years, my hope was to help in the (badly broken) education sector here. Ultimately I have been successful in finally being able to share my expertise with schools, organizations, and companies around the country, but not before my university, American University of Myanmar was forced to close in April of 2018. It was heartbreaking, so when I look at my seemingly simple first cartoon, for me it has another hidden layer of meaning.

Of course, I could write a book or start a complex multimedia project on my frustrations, but where’s the fun in that? Cartoons are meant to be funny or at least thought-provoking.

We are now down to just a few more months in Myanmar before we move on. To where you ask? Alas, we’re in the typical expat limbo where contracts are ending before new ones have been secured.


That’s my husband and I in cat-form. We actually did adopt two orange Burmese street kittens who look like this.


So on one hand I am dealing with uncertainty but it’s also exciting to have an infinite number of possibilities before us as well.  As I gear up for another cross-continental move, I find myself becoming nostalgic for the people and places I will be soon leaving behind. There are all kinds of quirky misunderstandings and outlandish situations I often find myself in here.


My sons even were taught this song in school. I’ve been told that migrant workers and those working far from home especially connect to this song.


Thanks to my new habit of starting to write and draw my daily expat observations down in a non-serious and quick way, I find that I now have a backlog of ideas as I aim to make a new cartoon every few days or so.

And because I lived in Rome, Italy for ten years before arriving in Myanmar, I enjoy comparing life in several countries and cultures around the world in a simple and visual way.



(*Note to self: Kristen.. you have to get over your obsession with Americans and their tendency to have guns. It’s unbecoming.)


One thing you should probably know about me is that normally I do  Important. Serious. Complex. Art. Projects. Don’t believe me? I’m literally working on a (practically) TWENTY year animation at the moment!

My current film in progress is about a young and bright Indian immigrant living in Brooklyn who does everything her parents, religion, and culture ask of her… until her arranged marriage goes sour. Lucky is an experimental animated documentary short that follows the real life of one woman in the USA and India from 2001 to 2019. Watch online and learn more here.

Sorry. Just a moment. I have to apply some more bug spray. A mosquito got into my studio…



So, that’s what I have been up to. I initially started out strong with daily doodles, but now that I am tied up a bit with work, I have to make peace with drawing a cartoon every other day or every few days now.


Over To You

How are you recording your daily life? If blogging or writing a gigantic novel is too much, you might want to start with a few simple doodles. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.


The heart on my T-shirt is meant to represent my good intentions, diplomacy, and good will towards my host country and its people.


“Out There -Doodles from Abroad” is a daily creativity exercise in capturing quirky ideas and communicating them quickly without too much fuss. They begin as drawings in my sketchbook and are then digitized and polished up a little. Find more doodles, high-res art prints, tech accessories, etc. at RedBubble.

See all the cartoons here.

Do you journal your daily life or travels in a creative way? Please share your thoughts or leave a link in the comments.