The Han (韩) sisters

So you see, I found them.

In a spur of the moment, I had followed two faceless young girls into the alleys and it wasn’t too long before I lost them. The alleys can be tricky as they sometimes splintered further into tiny veins, each pathway narrower than the next.

“Did you see two young girls running through here?” I asked an old man who suddenly wandered into my path.

He smiled a toothless grin and pointed me deeper into a shaded walkway. And so, I walked forth, peering cautiously into a line of darkened rooms.

And there they were, watching television in the single room which was home to the entire family. Their father was washing his hair over a private sink in their home, a rarity in the alleys. He was as perplexed as I was by the situation but was pleased to have me take a photo of his daughters.

Their names are Hanye and Hanbo and the family hails from rural Jiangsu. The sibling dynamics was typical. The older sister, Hanbo was brash and chatty as she showed me around the alley while the younger one, Hanye trailed shyly behind. Hanye stays with her parents in Shanghai while Hanbo studies back in the hometown. As her parents are not from Shanghai, their resident permit or hukou only allowed one child in the city.

It was almost ironic since the older sister was more suited for the harshness of the big city. Or perhaps the difficult rural conditions play a part in toughening her exterior. The sisters see each other during the school holidays and it was clear that they missed each other. It was a 10-hour bus ride between the two places.

As he left the house for work as a package delivery man the father joked (almost disturbingly), “If you decide to take one with you, it’s okay with me.”

August 2009


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