So let me summarize where we are with Madagascar at this point. I am writing my heart out every day, while tearing my heart out with delusions about Nancy. And the anti-malarias are working a number on my head. The kids are tiny, four and six, and they are still a mystery to me. I never saw much of them in the States because of my ridiculous work schedule. And now I have house help who provide for their fulltime care.
We picked up a beautiful stone cottage on a pristine mountain lake where we spend idyllic weekends. But I am jealous and suspicious of everyone. I am driving myself (and Nancy) nuts – really seriously, literally. I am sinking into a weird self-reinforcing mental death spiral. Part of it is self-loathing for losing my sense of self as an entrepreneur/businessman. Part of it is my realization that my literary aspirations are one more proof of my delusions.
On top of this, one day I took a nap on the lawn at the lake house. A couple weeks later I found a pig-shit dwelling insect had crawled into my chin and laid a big face-boil full of eggs. I popped the boil and a load of living things came tumbling out. Somehow living insects springing from my face struck me as an apt metaphor for my life at this point. I still pick my chin with persistence, as if to ensure that no vestige of those dark days remain.
Somewhere around this point I decided that what I needed was to get up every morning and go to work. I looked around and opportunities start popping up. A software firm I knew from DC brought me on as a regional systems implementer under contract with USAID. At the same time, USAID in Madagascar offered me a job. Then the State Department hired me as a ‘trailing spouse’ to oversee the Ambassador’s Self Help fund. That was a small time job but it offered lots of interesting local travel all across the great red isle.
At exactly this same point, Sombila raced back to the forefront of our lives. The court ordered Sombila back to the capital for sentencing. Because of U.S. pressure, he believed he was facing a death sentence. Somehow, he instead managed to escape from the escape-proof island of Nosy Lava.
America was, at the time, posting rewards for the arrest of terrorists abroad. These had resulted in the arrest of suspects in the recent East Africa Embassy bombings. The State Department decided to extend the practice to Sombila.
The Sombila saga generated a continuous stream of newspaper articles. There were daily tales of his many near captures and miraculous escapes. The reward prompted sightings in every corner of the world’s largest island. But Sombila managed to stay out of the hands of the bounty-chasing lawmen. The papers linked Nancy, who was in charge of Peace Corps financial operations, with the cash reward – 5 million Malagasy francs. It was the equivalent of four years of normal local pay. On Thursday, January 22nd, 1998, Sombila wrote Nancy a note in blood red ink. It said, ‘You are looking for me so I am coming to get you. Prepare to die.’ He signed it ‘Sombila’ followed by a skull and cross bones. The note chilled me to the core.
Nancy, on the other hand, was totally unfazed. “I’ve got Dude,” she confidently informed me. She hooked a thumb toward her very macho ‘strong silent-type’ driver who had more of the attitude of a bodyguard. That girl is rock hard and bred tough. Ask anyone who knows her. I, however, am not…and I didn’t have a bodyguard. I also figured if Sombila couldn’t get to Nancy (which he easily could have) he’d come for me…or far worse, for the kids. I mean the guy was a known psychopath. He’d killed a bunch of people. He’d brutally murdered a defenseless young American woman with a couple of his gang. What was going to keep him from taking Nancy out?
Fortunate for us, several months later they re-arrested him. Then they sent him back to jail. Since then I have looked but can find no further reference to him anywhere on-line. That is until recently (2016), when I found a musical recording. It is a song called ‘Sombila’ from a collection called ‘Tulear Never Sleeps’. The recording resembles a Mexican ‘Narcocorrido’ glamorizing drug criminals in folk music form.
Here are the lyrics:
There’s a famous man who came from the North
Sombila was his name
Sombila, a prisoner sent into exile at Nosilava
He went through Morondava and finally arrived in Tulear
He was a “wanted man” by the authorities who would pay money to anyone who could track him
Be careful he’s a dangerous man!
He’d been captured in Maroantsetra, Sombila the infamous
They had given him to the authorities and they had sent him to Toamasina
Take it slow, you Sombila!
Dangerous, you are!
It seems that you are sick
And don’t know what to do
Eh, he’s sick!
Eh, there’s nothing we can do!
Eh, he’s suffering!