Trippan’s Home

LensTraveller - Photojournalist - Feature Stories

‘HOME.’ Where is home? What is a home? Who is home? …I asked these questions because those were the emotions that flooded my mind when I first saw Trippan.

Although I’ve been to the same local beach before, today something was different. I especially like this local beach because it’s quiet and usually anyone is around. I was walking down the broken steps when a dazzling light caught the corner of my eye. It was the glare from the piece of a broken mirror that Trippan was using while carefully shaving his facial hair with a razor. It made me stopped. Suddenly, I  found myself looking at what could easily be a set from a movie. Trippan was sitting on the ruins of an abandoned house, which I’ve never noticed before this day,  the early morning light gave the scene a gentle and smooth artistic look.

The broken-down walls had a tint of sapphire color on them which contrasted beautifully with the coastal sands and the vegetation in the background. Trippan’s personal belongings were perfectly arranged around him.  A red sleeping bag, a set of black sneakers were hanging out to dry, newspapers, a soft cooler box with a few drinks, some toiletries and Trippan’s backpack close to him. Although it was clear that Trippan was homeless, one could observe good manners and a strong feeling of self-caring.

I waited a little for a while before I decided to come closer and introduce myself and make friends with a perfect stranger. ‘Hi,’  ‘Hello! I’m Trippan’. We both smiled.

I sat next to Trippan on a concrete-like bench.  We started talking as we knew each other. As I was chatting, I noticed his rare beautiful gold-flecked eyes, his perfect teeth, and his lean yet muscular body. Trippan, no longer a stranger, opened up about where he was from, his past life and how tragedy got him where he is today.

I travelled the world since I was very young, lived in many places, and I am still travelling to many more. As a world traveller, I have to be brutally honest with myself as I interrogated my inner being on – ‘Where’ is my home?’ Who’ is my home ?’ ‘What is my home?’ What is a home?’

As citizens of the world, we are entitled to inhabit any space  Mother Earth created for us. For Trippan Haris, he has made home here, on these ruins at a local beach.

For me, home is not a building, not a piece of soil, but a place inside myself where I find peace. Home lives and travels with me.

LensTraveller - Photojournalist - Feature Stories

Just Like That, You Left

‘Where is Trippan?’

I realised I’d been wondering this all the time that he’d been gone. I realised when suddenly, yesterday, there he was. It had been almost 9 months since I saw him last.

Seeing him was a beautiful surprise. I could tell he was pleased to see me too. Instinctively I wanted to give him a big hug but instead I stopped and said, ‘Covid!’

We both laughed.

We walked together back to where we first met; the ruins. Breaking lockdown rules we sat together looking out over the beachfront.

‘Where have you been?’

‘Lots of places.’

He gave me a bright smile as he rolled out a smoke.

‘At least that’s legal,’ I joked, looking down at the tobacco in his hands.

He told me that he’d travelled to Swaziland, and then to Mozambique, on a quest to get his papers sorted. Unfortunately, he had not got them yet. He said he has a problem, he called it ‘being of rich descent’. He said his father is an African-American, his mother Russian, and neither of them live in South Africa anymore. He said because of that he can’t get his papers. He has no rights.

Trippan told me he was born in Johannesburg and brought up there. One day when very young, his parents took off. He found relatives who would take care of him for short periods, but they never took him in completely.

‘I’m a musician and a great rapper!’ Trippan said suddenly, changing the subject. ‘That’s awesome! I’d love to hear you play. Where are your instruments?’

‘I don’t have them with me now.’

We spoke about COVID. How not being able to walk around freely or go swimming in the ocean is freaking people out. How no-one is allowed at the beach, and although Trippan bothers no one, how he keeps getting chased away by the locals. He said he can’t stay in these ruins, his home.

‘So how are you coping?’

‘I now have to sell my body.’

‘What do you mean?’ I asked, shocked. But of course I knew what he meant.

‘I have sex to earn money,’ he said in a softer voice. ‘I have some clients, and they take me to their place to have sex. Some times it’s just for the night, sometimes it’s for several days. Some are ladies like yourself.’

Trippan was quiet, making no more or less of what he’d said.

‘I’d like to hear you play some music for me sometime,’ I finally offered.

​Trippan gave me a half-smile, shrugged his shoulders, and then nodded.

‘It’s getting dark, I need to get back home before the lockdown curfew.’

Part of me wanted to keep listening to Trippan’s stories. I wanted to make sure I’d see him again and talk some more, maybe even try to find a way to help him. I am a foreigner in South Africa too, and I’ve been through the same bureaucratic getting-my-papers chaos that he was talking about. But I didn’t say it.

Trippan walked with me to my car and I promised to be back soon.

’I’m around,’ he said, and waved me goodbye.

I have not seen him since.

‘Where is Trippan?’

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