You Make Me Feel So Mahtava

It was one of the first words Chang learned in Finland: mahtava. Finnish for “awesome”. It worked itself into her daily vocabulary because it does things that “awesome” never can, letting you exhale and simmer on the moment: MAH-ta-vaaaaaa. Her life in Helsinki was mahtava in large part to the friends she made at work and beyond, a global crew from Finland, Italy, Holland, Chile, India, Romania, Ireland, Brazil, Sweden, Australia, Spain, Germany, Singapore, Norway, Canada, the UK, the US, who made her feel like she belonged the moment she touched down. Like Mr. Roger’s neighborhood, they all lived within blocks from one another and for that reason and others, they hung out with an intensity she had only experienced at camp. Many of them worked in the same building. All of them ate and drank at the same places. And most of them danced their hearts out until nothing mattered besides friends, rhythm, and avoiding the broken glass.

By coincidence and for all positive reasons, five of them left Helsinki at the same time. While packing up her apartment, she found a can of temporary spray chalk in the back of her closet. She cut out a stencil while stuffing things into suitcases, and after friends came over for one last hurrah and they laughed and played and they adopted her chairs and lamps and they slow-danced and hugged, she crept out into the night and left one last message to them in front of their doors and streets and favorite cafes, something they would see only after she was in the clouds. There are few feelings greater than leaving a love note in public space, a note that all people will enjoy but certain ones will enjoy even more. Helsinki, you make me feel so mahtava! We were all together at this moment in time in our lives and it was great.

2010, temporary spray chalk, Helsinki, Finland.