Wednesday, Nov. 3
I beat my South African comrades to the lobby of our hotel, the place we had planned to meet to share a taxi to the airport.
While I waited, I made small talk with two female hotel employees behind the bar.
“You’re leaving?” one asked.
“Yes,” I said. “To the airport. I have a flight.”
“You’re going to Sambava?”
I thought it was odd they would guess my destination on the first try, since I could have been going anywhere in Madagascar or even home to the States. It wasn’t until later, after I saw the small Diego airport, that I realized Sambava was one of only two flights out each Wednesday.
“Yes, Sambava,” I replied.
“Will you take this with you?” one of the women asked, holding up a thin plastic bag stuffed with what appeared to be fabric.
I didn’t understand right away what she wanted, mostly because I didn’t expect such a request.
“You want me to take the bag to Sambava?” I asked suspiciously.
“Yes,” the woman replied, and her friend was already on the phone, looking at me and talking in Malagasy, I think describing my appearance, my blond hair and maroon t-shirt. While she spoke into her mobile, she slipped 20,000 Ariary — about 10 bucks — into the bag.
“What’s in it?” I asked as she tied it closed.
“Dresses for girls,” she said simply.
“And how will I know who to give it to?”
“He’ll find you,” she said.