Wednesday, Nov. 3
Sambava, Madagascar

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.