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I listened to this podcast story from The Moth a couple months ago, where a guy shared about writing haikus. He was living in New York and feeling frustrated about the honking and traffic outside of his house, and he began writing haikus (called honkus) about it. Something he said stuck with me for the last few months: writing haikus felt like a way to add structure and order to the chaos of the traffic. 

If you’ve forgotten, a haiku is a very simple poem structure of 5-7-5. Here’s the best way I’ve found to remember it:

Haikus are easy.

They aren’t very difficult.


I was feeling particularly frustrated by some things a few weeks ago, and I found myself thinking about this statement of writing haikus to make some structure out of chaos. Culture shock is a complicated thing to explain and experience. Thus far, I’ve found that it comes in waves. Sometimes it feels like I’ll just continue cycling through the stages of culture shock over and over again. I’m just hoping that they’ll get less extreme with each cycle. 

The latest wave of culture shock has left me with this desperate feeling of needing to break free. I think a lot of it probably has to do with language barriers--it’s hard to not be able to really express myself to most people I talk to here. I’m always trying to figure out how I can communicate what I want in Urdu--knowing that I could say it more easily in my mother tongue. The other aspect of this need to break free, I think, comes from the simple fact that my life is way less independent here. There are safety issues and cultural issues that limit my freedoms. My roommate needs to know where I am after dark. I have to go to certain places if I’m going to do a walk alone. I need to cover a certain way in my neighborhood or bear the weight of dozens of men (and women) staring at me. 

So I’ve been feeling really rebellious lately--like I just want to break every rule and do whatever I want. And that is a bit of a chaotic feeling. So I’ve been writing haikus about it. I’ve found it to be a really nice spiritual practice. It’s helping me to process things I’m feeling, but then dissolve them down into five and seven syllable statements. I’m certain I’m no budding poet, but often the art we create is more for our own good than for public consumption.

My rebellious heart--

Finds every rule it can break,

For the adventure.

Haikus are easy.

Why don’t you give it a try?


(DISCLAIMER: this post was written in 2021, when I was still settling into Pakistan and does not necessarily reflect my current experience)

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