Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Paper Dolls

Last night, S. and I walked up to the Newtown Dendy to watch the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras screening of Paper Dolls. This documentary film from Israel focuses on the lives of a troop of Phillipino transgender caregivers who have migrated to Israel as part of a foreign workers program to replace Palestinian workers no longer permitted to work in Israel after the second Intifada. The caregivers work for elderly orthodox Jews living in the orthodox quarter of Tel Aviv. By night they perform as "The Paper Dolls" in night clubs close to Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station.

It was a bit of a push for us to make it to the film. It was on at 9pm and S. is 39 weeks pregnant this Friday. She gets pretty tired in the evenings and sitting in a cinema seat for any length of time is uncomfortable. However, when I saw this film in the guide we knew it would be worth making an attempt to see it since it's the kind of film that will probably not get a mainstream release. This film was really touching and delved into a number of issues thoughtfully and sensitively. I found it quite confronting to see up close the experience of foreign workers living and working in a society in which they are not able to fully participate and which does not provide any of the protections afforded to citizens. The harsh migration policies that govern the status and movement of the foreign workers in Israel reminded me of the current Australian migration policies covering foreign workers on 457 visas. On top of this hard hitting political dimension, the film also revealed the difficulties and tenderness in the relationships between the caregivers and their Jewish employers and the various ways that the Paper Dolls negotiate and maintain their transgender identities and how the elderly clients come to accept them. I enjoyed it tremendously and highly recommend it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Back at home

I'm back at home and the humans, the dog and cat have finally re-established their domestic routines. It's easy to underestimate how unsettling it can be to pack up all your belongings, move out for a while, have the house painted and then move back in. Unfortunately, after making some really good headway on my PhD at my mum's house, the thesis has taken a bit of a back seat lately. It's not that I haven't got work done but it feels more distant and not at the forefront of my thoughts and activity. I'm not too worried about this. The amount of work I'm doing is about as much as I can handle under my current circumstances. I have managed to complete the processing of all my interviews and have moved on to the indexing of them into a single document. A number of themes have emerged which have guided a new thesis structure that I'm reasonably happy with at the moment.

I haven't announced the particularities of my circumstances on my blog yet, but feel that now is the right time to do so, what with the due date in clear view. My partner and are having a child. S. is due to give birth on March 9th and baby is packing on as much weight and other physiological goodies as it can in the final days before it emerges into the world. We are of course excited (the obvious emotional state that everyone expects) but are also experiencing an enormous spectrum of other emotions. I guess excitement is the easiest one to pinpoint, understand and share with others, particularly strangers. But other feelings such as terror, trepidation, anticipation, curiosity, nervousness, pride, strangeness, suspense, a kind of inward melting (love?) and wonder are just some of the other feelings that toy with me on a daily basis. What I find so odd is how emotions around birth and becoming a parent are often presented to be quite simple and well, universally positive and 'natural' when in actuality, when you are touched closely by the experience either through a member of your family, close friend or through direct personal experience, there are just so many different emotional states and shades of feelings that people experience that expressing this complexity is close to impossible. Perhaps this is why we resort to platitudes such as "we are so thrilled" or "they must be so excited", when we refer to child birth and why so much cultural labour goes into presenting it as simple and 'natural'.