Beer battered fish tacos + an Australian music festival from afar.

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Photos by Angela Jia Zheng

We love music festivals. But sometimes they are just too darn hot/busy/packed/loud/dirty. So this year, we decided instead of going to Big Day Out, we would hold a Big Day In. Packed into Stina and Peters house were our huge group, each playing a ‘setlist’ they had put together for a band that was playing Big Day Out. Stina had crafted banners, wristbands, programs and VIP tags, which allowed you into the VIP room which was stocked with champagne (I believe these were rotated throughout the day).

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As I am in Phoenix, I was skyped into the party. Mike wanted to join me, and I was glad for the company. So Mike and I drank spiced rum, danced around the loungeroom, and chatted to people on a rotating basis while we attended a party on the other side of the world. It worked exceptionally well. When we couldn’t hear each other, we were all dancing anyway.

Here is Peter and Stina dancing with us (we are on the chair in front of Peter). Daisy wasn’t quite sure what was happening.

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We started off by cooking dinner here – I made a beer batter with a local Arizona brew, and we deep fried some fish, mixed up some chipotle coleslaw and warmed some stone ground corn tortillas.

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Between us we polished off 11 tacos…..

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I had a little bit of beer batter left over. We bought our groceries for dinner at Fresh & Easy, who just happen to stock a pile of Aussie chocolate bars. Mum was there as the shop was halfway to Mike’s house, so she took me there, he picked me up – she convinced me to buy a stack of the chocolate bars so that he could try them. As soon as we got home, we inhaled the Aero, but we hadn’t yet touched the Crunchie. I couldn’t just throw away the leftover batter – so decided to head back to my childhood in Australia and make deep fried chocolate bars. I remember ordering these chocolate bars at fish and chip shops, that were wrapped in a crunchy, oily batter, and almost liquefied inside with melted chocolate and gooey nougat and sticky caramel.

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Then we logged onto skype. Peter, Eric, Angela and Stina sat with us, eating hot dogs from our favourite hotdog shop Massive Weiners. The guys there are super cool – they hold rad warehouse parties in buildings about to be demolished, sleep out the back, install light up disco floors in their spare rooms… The party was about the start so the crew were storing up on hotdog energy for the copious amounts of dancing that was about to go down.

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The ‘anti-festival’ as I liked to call it started at 3PM Australian Eastern Standard Time, which was 9PM here in Phoenix. We thought we would hang around for an hour or two, but ended up staying for 3 hours.

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My baby was my stand-in at the party, and got lots of affection from everyone.

At one point throughout the night Stina mentioned bringing out her wig, that featured heavily at the Color Run and other events throughout my last few months in Melbourne. Once the word wig had been said – Mike’s costumes started coming out.

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We went from one afro wig – to three wigs – to this creature appearing over my shoulder. Eventually, we ended up sitting on the couch, Mike as a gorilla and me as the purple tellytubby.

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Peter and Eric had been rehearsing for weeks. In the 5+ years I have known Eric he has never played an entire song – he says he gets bored half way through! I used to make him play songs I liked while I sang along, and he always cut off half way through. ‘No more! I am bored!’

When I left Melbourne, Peter and Eric were still jamming on Guitar Hero guitars. But in the past month, they graduated to real guitars and decided to play sets at Big Day In.

To end the evening, just before we signed off, Peter and Eric played their first set, and we all sat on the floor in front of the ‘stage’ (the laptop sitting on a chair at the front) and sang along to the Black Keys and Bryan Adams.

For the final song, Peter said ‘and this one’s for you Lani.’ Cue the whistle-intro to Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. They had learned to play the song that had been the theme to my last few months in Melbourne.

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You know those songs that just seem to apply to certain points of your life? Well, this group of friends grew into my family, and as my departure became more imminent the lyrics ‘Home is wherever I’m with you’ became the theme to all of our get-togethers. It all came together on Thanksgiving, one of the most magical evenings, when the rest of the lyrics fit as well. Pumpkin pie, chocolate candy – laugh until we think we’ll die, barefoot on a summer night, never could be sweeter than with you.

All our friends came together in mine and Eric’s apartment, bringing a dish that they loved, was American, or was traditional in their home country, and Stina and I lined the table with vintage tablecloths, candles tied with ribbon and freshly picked flowers from my apartment gardens.

So when the intro started, I could feel the tears welling up. Two of my favourite people played the notes to the song they had learned, and the rest of my beloved friends sat barefoot and cross-legged on the floor in Australia, and sang the lyrics loudly through to the other side of the world. My friend Pouya brang my baby Daisy up the front and danced with her to the music.

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I sang along too, my solitary voice breaking up with tears every now and then. There are few times in my life that I have felt as loved as I did tonight. One of my friends, I couldn’t see who, picked up the laptop and panned the camera around to all these wonderful people singing with a smile and pointing towards me:

Our home, yes, I am home,
Home is whenever I’m with you.



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