Feed the Good Wolf

I feel the need to weigh in on the political situation in US of A. I do not believe that I have anything new to say, but when I think that I will therefore not say anything, that feels wrong.  So this, today, is my statement.  Followed by a story that gives me a way forward.

I am not happy with our new president.  I was not happy with him as a candidate, and I am not happy with him now.  I don’t like what he says or has done regarding issues of immigration.  I don’t like his arrogant, self-absorbed demeanor.  I read things that disturb me regarding how he is placing white supremacists in powerful positions around him.  I am told that hate crimes and hateful actions are on the rise.

I know good people who like him, who brush off what I find intolerable with a shrug of the shoulders and say this is the liberal media, not the truth.  All I can say is, I hope you are right.

I still don’t like him.  I feel betrayed by a country that I thought I understood a little, but clearly I don’t.

In the face of discrimination, hate and fear, I feel compelled to wage love.  Wage kindness.  Wield it like a sword.  No one, no matter how hateful, can take away your ability to be compassionate.  Do it expansively.

Here is a small Native American story for us to keep close to our hearts, to give us a way forward, personally.  It doesn’t speak directly to politics, but to individuals–to me.

A grandfather tells a young child that inside each person, there is a good wolf and a bad wolf.  The bad wolf is hate, anger, and arrogance.  The good wolf is love, compassion, and kindness.  The good wolf and the bad wolf are locked in a fight.

The child thinks about the wolves and, as children do, asks, “Which one wins?”

The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”

Feed the good wolf.

 

 

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December 7, 2010: Bill returns the borrowed car

On the morning of December 7, 2010, Bill returned the car he borrowed the previous afternoon. He returned it with the gas tank re-filled.  It was surprisingly clean, except for a notable amount of mud in the wheel wells.

Bill posted a note on the facebook wall of Barbara’s sister, stating that Barbara had telephoned him.  The message that Bill “relayed” is that Barbara said she was going to travel to Panama with her friend, that she didn’t have internet where she was now, but that she would email the family as soon as she got to a place where she could.  And not to worry, she was fine.

Obviously, the email they must have waited for never came.

bill and barbara

Read from other days:

December 6
December 12

“Recordando a Bárbara”: La Historia en Español

Con la ayuda de unas amigas queridas, traducí la historia de Bárbara Struncova en español.

Para mí, es importante contar la historia de la desaparición de Bárbara en la madre lengua del país donde ocurrió.  Los Ticos son personas generosas, inteligentes, y orgullosas de su cultura.  Yo sé que  no les agrada para nada que tragedias como esta ocurran en su país.  Tienen derecho de saber lo que pasó en el patio detrás de su casa.

Para quedar claro: escribí la historia original usando el nombre “Jim” para el personaje que representa el novio de Bárbara.  Esto hice porque hace 2 años cuando comencé a escribirla, nadie hablaba de lo que ocurrió y “Jim” estaba gozando de libertad aquí en Los Estados Unidos.  No quería encontrarlo enojado en la puerta de mi casa.  Ahora él se encuentra en la cárcel y todo el mundo sabe la triste historia.  Ya no hay secretos.   Decidí traducir la historia usando siempre el nombre “Jim,” porque todos los otros nombres han sido cambiados también—todos menos el de Bárbara.  Y el mío.

Aquí le presento la historia.  Léala en línea o sírvase a bajarla a su computadora.  Compártala libremente.
Recordando a Barbara

Barbara 3

How I Tried (and Failed) To Believe That Barbara Was Murdered By A Drug Cartel

Let’s begin with a review:

When Barbara Struncova disappeared, her boyfriend Bill Ulmer , who is the last one to have seen her alive, told us:

First, that she left to travel to the Caribbean with friends.
Second, that she left to travel to the Caribbean with an ex-boyfriend.
Third, that she left to travel in Panama, saying she was in Bocas del Toro.
Fourth, that she was a closet drug addict and had gone to rehab in Czech Republic.
Fifth, that she was a secret drug smuggler who had lots of trouble brewing.
And sixth, that she was murdered by angry drug dealers to whom she owed money.

These stories do not make any sense put together and not one single soul has, thus far, stepped forward to corroborate any of them.  Not. One.

So let’s talk about something I don’t know a lot about: the shady world of drug dealing and whether or not drug dealers (cartels?!) murdered Barbara Struncova.

What happens in the real world when you owe money to drug dealers?

I don’t know about Medellin. I don’t know about Rio de Janeiro. I don’t know about Ciudad Juarez. But were’ talking about Tamarindo, here, and I do know what happens in Tamarindo when a person owes money to drug dealers. They stop you on the street and ask you where their money is. They come up to you on the beach in broad daylight. They follow you home from the bar. They knock on the door of your house during dinner and they don’t care if your housemates are home or if you have guests. If they get really pissed off, they might break into your house and take what they feel is rightfully theirs.  They don’t hide. They don’t sneak. Everybody sees you talking to them and you might be mortified, but they don’t care. People near you know perfectly well what’s going on.  Trust me. I did not just roll off the turnip truck.

You know those terrifying Costa Rican drug cartels you hear about on the news every night? What? You haven’t heard about the Costa Rican drug cartels? Don’t you have a TV? You know—the ones mailing bushels of cocaine to Czech Republic? Come on. Try a little harder. Google the Costa Rican drug cartels. What do you mean there are no Costa Rican drug cartels? Oh damn. Another one bites the dust.

I Googled Costa Rican drug cartels/trafficking/violence. Studies and news reports indicate that in recent years, the Mexican Sinaloa cartel has been more active inside of Costa Rica. San Jose’s sketchy barrios are getting sketchier.  But this is Tamarindo we are talking about, and in 2010. Tamarindo doesn’t even have street gangs. Everybody who can attest to the presence of the Sinaloa cartel in Tamarindo in 2010, please raise your hand.

What?  Nobody?

I heard that the bad-news Columbians in Tamarindo killed a guy a few years after we left. (Sorry, nice Columbians!) Maybe the guys who killed him weren’t even Columbian—maybe they were something else and I’m blaming the innocent.  For sure, somebody got into a fight with drug dealers and he ended up dead.  There.  That’s the history Tamarindo drug killing. And he didn’t disappear. He was just dead.

Think about it. “Drug dealers,” if I may lump an enormous variety of people into one pile, would terrorize you to get their money. They would terrorize the people close to you. They might kill your dog. They might break somebody’s legs. But how are you going to pay them if you’re dead? And if they do kill you, your boyfriend is probably going too.

* * * * *

Let’s circle back around to what we know.  The CSI that took place a few days after Barbara disappeared, demonstrates clear evidence of foul play IN BILL AND BARBARA’S BEDROOM, according to the OIJ.  Everyone knows he was at home on the night she disappeared.  He has never tried to say that he wasn’t.  So if a drug cartel/dealer killed Barbara, they did it in her bedroom while he was right there.

I fail to see how this scenario, in any way, solves his problem.

He is trying to use the smoke screen of drugs to confuse and silence us.  Drugs? we are supposed to say, as we suck in our breath. Oh! Well.  Yes, we all know lots of very bad things that we don’t really understand happen behind closed doors when people are involved in drugs. It’s secret. It’s scandalous. It’s morally wrong. What a shame.  

Bill wants us to believe that Barbara got what she had coming to her.

Bullshit.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS IT OK FOR A PERSON TO DISAPPEAR OFF THE FACE OF THE PLANET.

So try again to tell us:
WHERE IS BARBARA STRUNCOVA?

This fall, Crime Watch Daily plans to address Barbara’s disappearance.  I will spread the word as soon as I know which day the story will air.

How I Also Tried (and Failed) to Believe That Barbara Was Trafficking Drugs

As Bill’s story about Barbara Struncova being in drug rehab came to an end, a new story evolved. In this one, Barbara was buying “tons of coke” and sending it “back home in the mail.” Home? His home in North Carolina, or her home in Czech Republic? I assume he is referring to Czech Republic, because there is no one here from Czech to argue for her.  He named a Czech friend as her accomplice.

What did I do? I looked the guy up.

Hell yes I did.  I can’t exactly ask Barbara about it, so I asked him.  It was a little awkward. Did you ever have to say to complete stranger, “Hi. Sorry—you don’t know me and please don’t think I’m a psychopath, but have you, by any chance, ever been a drug trafficker?”

He was amazingly nice about it. He said no. He said he has never sold any drug to anyone in his life. He said Bill would have witnessed him use drugs occasionally while he was on vacation, and that is probably how his name got attached. I said, “Thanks for being so kind. Pardon the stupid question. That’s what I thought.” So now it’s one guy’s word against the other. Pick the one you think is telling the truth:  the Czech guy you don’t know, or the guy in jail that you do know.

But again, since I’m exploring all possibilities, I attempted to figure out how drug smuggling could be a truth I never saw.

So many problems with that supposition leap out at me. We won’t discuss, until next week, Bill’s suggestion that Barbara was murdered by the people who procured her these drugs, but keep it in mind because :

(A)  That is a crap-load of a lot of coke. I’ve never been a drug dealer, so this is not the voice of experience speaking—but, how much money to you have to owe a drug dealer IN TAMARINDO before they kill you? This cocaine-mailing-to-Europe operation that supposedly existed is not some funny-tasting baking soda tucked inside a birthday card. We are talking about A LOT of cocaine that someone gave up all hope of ever being paid for.

(Honestly, you lost me right there. But I press on…)

(B)   Sending it through the mail? What—Correos de Costa Rica? UPS? Mailboxes Etc? DHL in Liberia?  I’m not saying it can’t be done, but a trans-Atlantic drug smuggling operation moving enough merchandise to end in a murder? Through the mail from Costa Rica? Successfully, let me add, because Barbara and her supposed accomplice were never suspected by the authorities.  Amazing.

(In my estimation, a woman as smart as Barbara, if she had gotten it right that far, would have paid the guys she owed.  She was an accountant.  She knew how this works.)

(C)   Mailing things is an enormous pain in Tamarindo.  Or it was when Barbara and I lived there. I’m just saying. If you’re mailing drugs, you need to package them and take the packages to the place from which you will mail them. Which would be mighty hard if you, like Barbara,  had no car. Not impossible–just hard. And you’d think someone would have noticed her pedaling down the street piled with packages, or taking a lot of mysterious trips to Liberia on the bus.

(Anyone?)

(D)   Remember last week’s discussion of whether or not Barbara was a drug addict?  In my understanding, people who successfully coordinate international drug trafficking operations large enough to put their lives in danger are not also addicts in need of rehab. They are smart, savvy business people who can afford cars. Generally speaking, of course. The addicts in need of rehab are at the other end of the food chain.  The people who are both addicts and dealers are the ones hanging around the corner with pockets full of little white baggies, which not even Bill has the nerve to suggest about her.

I will always say in conclusion: I could be wrong.  I don’t see how, but if you know something I don’t, feel free to speak up.

I am, however, willing to stick my neck out and say that, based on my own experiences with Barbara and in Tamarindo—I don’t believe it.

Next Monday in my last (I think) post in the series, I will explain why—even if I am wrong about everything I have said so far—I still don’t think a Costa Rican drug cartel killed Barbara.

IMG_3604z

Barbara Struncova
November 7, 2010

How I Tried (and Failed) to Believe that Barbara Was a Drug Addict

When Barbara Struncova disappeared, all of her boyfriend’s initial statements about where she went involved her leaving in the middle of the night to travel—to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and/or Panama—either with some Czech friends who were finishing a surf trip or with an ex-boyfriend named Martin. We know that these stories are false because none of the Czech surfers took a trip to the Caribbean at that time, and Barbara’s ex-boyfriend Martin has never been to Costa Rica.

His first attempt to blame Barbara’s disappearance on drugs, as far as I know, came in early 2011. He claimed that (attempt #1) her family quietly shuffled her off to a rehab program in Czech Republic. It wasn’t a very good story, though, because rehab programs do eventually end, and people reappear from them. And where is Barbara?

Sometime in 2013, he began to admit that Barbara is dead. And I would like to thank him for letting her rest, for managing to say something true. Good job.

His claim (attempt #2), which I believe that he holds to even now, is that Barbara was murdered by drug dealers to whom she owed enormous amounts of money for her own drug habit and for drugs that she was trafficking to Europe.

Let’s talk about that.

Could Barbara have used drugs that I don’t know about? Of course. Lots of people do lots of things I don’t know about.

Could Barbara have suffered from an out-of-control drug addiction? That’s a different type of question. I tried to construct it as a possibility, because it’s important to be open-minded, but it keeps falling apart on me. Nothing fits. Maybe that story works better on people who haven’t lived in Tamarindo. Or who didn’t know Barbara. It falls wildly short for those of us who did both.

In Tamarindo, the two common street drugs are marijuana and cocaine, so we can assume he is accusing her of abusing those. Indeed, Bill spelled it out clearly in a 2012 written conversation (not with me) where he called Barbara a “coke head”. It makes my blood boil to even write that. I don’t need Barbara to have been a saint, but this is beyond preposterous.

Have you known anyone who does a lot of drugs? Smokes a lot of pot? Consumes a lot of cocaine? I mean A LOT of cocaine? As in, they have lost it and really need to be in rehab right now?

I have.

Barbara didn’t look like them. She didn’t act like them.  She didn’t hang out with them. She didn’t even know them. I try to think of one thing Barbara had in common with them, but nothing comes to mind.

Let’s review what we all know. When a person is using enough cocaine to need rehab, they most likely:
–Have unusual/irregular sleep patterns
–Express volatile emotions
–Exhibit erratic behavior
–Suffer from a chronically runny nose
–They’ve probably tried to stop on their own, and failed
–They hang out with other people who do a lot of cocaine

Barbara did not have or do any of these things.  She was clear-minded, reliable, and even-tempered.

And then there’s this. During the entire two years that Bill and Barbara lived in Costa Rica, they had housemates—other people who lived with them and observed Barbara’s behavior, sleep patterns and emotional fluctuations much more closely than I was able to. I have talked with eight of these individuals. Not one of them witnessed her exhibiting behaviors that suggest she regularly consumed large amounts of cocaine.

For these reasons, I don’t buy it. She could certainly have used drugs and I would never have known it. Big deal. But a drug trafficker? And an addict? In need of rehab? Organized by her family in Czech? And eight housemates never noticed anything? Please.

Could I be wrong? I could.  But me, you, eight housemates and dozens of friends?  Or could it be the guy who’s in jail for what amounts to being a liar?  Draw your own conclusion.

Next week let’s put the next piece of the story on the table under a bright light: The one about Barbara buying huge amounts of coke and smuggling it into Europe–with such success that, even now, it has never been investigated or even suspected by the authorities.

Today CrimeWatchDaily airs its premier episode.  If you live in the USA, this link will tell you when you will be able to see it.