The U.N. Diaries: The Boys I Mean by Colin Nash

the boys i mean are not refined by ee cummings

the boys i mean are not refined
they go with girls who buck and bite
they do not give a fuck for luck
they hump them thirteen times a night

one hangs a hat upon her tit
one carves a cross on her behind
they do not give a shit for wit
the boys i mean are not refined

they come with girls who bite and buck
who cannot read and cannot write
who laugh like they would fall apart
and masturbate with dynamite

the boys i mean are not refined
they cannot chat of that and this
they do not give a fart for art
they kill like you would take a piss

they speak whatever’s on their mind
they do whatever’s in their pants
the boys i mean are not refined
they shake the mountains when they dance

An American soldier overseas is a bit confusing at first. My first encounter was at a rooftop pool party at the Belgian Embassy in Kinshasa. The embassy was a tiny little colonial apartment hidden away between the diplomatic quarter of Kinshasa, a quiet little remnant of what Kin la Belle used to be before garbage and refuse poured down the streets, shards of glass lined the compounds, and squatters huts piled up like strewn tin cans over the jungle landscape. It was well put together, and the Belgians, along with some help from some Canadian foreign service workers, had gotten a large group of expats drinking. I can’t remember how we ended up there, but a mish mash of Western faces dotted the roof as we all slowly got drunk and whittled our time away in the DRC.

The soldier was a cut out stereotype from Fort Hood. Assigned to the embassy at Avenue des Aviateurs, he had every look of an American who was a fish out of water, and even though we were just drunk Canadian contractors (known to behave like Russians but speak English), I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

His talk was mostly about back home, about his dislike of the Congo (too hot, not like Kansas) his love of country (Bush wasn’t all that bad) and his naive sense of what they were doing there (America always lends a hand). If this had been my only meeting of soldiers overseas, I might have left with a neutral opinion, hearing so many stories of why America has the reputation it does. Unfortunately, the bar slid as my time continued. I excused myself, hoping for better conversation with a girl in a red dress from the state department, while I left him to be preyed upon by two British Marines just itching to throw him off the balcony. Why? Well, he was an American soldier, and I soon learned why this seemed like a good idea.

Kinshasa is a place for parties. On a weekend, if the timing is right, you hop from embassy to embassy, grabbing a drink here, saying hello to an ambassador there, and maybe sneaking a 40 oz of vodka for the ride home from the grinning bartender. One such party, at the British consulate, I had my first taste of that true Yankee pride.

Two guys happened to wander over to our table, dressed for Long Beach in the Bas Congo. Two of our female flight attendants were out for the night, and subtlety didn’t seem to be their strong point.

“Who’re the girls?”


“Hey. I’m roger. We’re American. AFRICOM. Who’re the girls?”

Heavy handed was half of it. They walked like they owned the world, and proceeded to alienate us one by one with macho stories of African subjugation (Oh yeah. We like training these guys. Shitty fighters. Don’t think Africans were ever good at fighting) thinly veiled as commentary. It only turned for the worse when they said it was a “shit posting” and were hoping to get onto something else soon. Needless to say, they didn’t fare well. The girls ignored them, they called them stuck up, and then left to pursue the wives of elder diplomats, eager for anything they could get their hands on.

I never believed in American arrogance overseas, or why they failed to make any dent in Africa. Was it slavery? Was it old cold war mentality? Or was it simply just ignorance? The Chinese were here building roads, making bridges, fixing infrastructure. America came in unmarked Dash 8′s with black suits and mirror shades, and offered nothing more than the chance to be friends with the big dog, throwing scraps and taking everything. Everything seemed out of sync, as if the military had no idea what its top half was doing, and everything was running amok. I still can’t verbalize it. It’s as disjointed as a large African city, dysfunction running through the ranks until the whole thing is a hot mess.

To sum it up, I hope to never see an American posted on active duty again. There’s a raw edge, a mark of mild stupidity, and a scary amount of tunnel vision that goes along with the digital camouflage that still makes my hair stand on end thinking about it.

I was walking the boardwalk in Kandahar 24 hours before I was set to go home in Afghanistan. I had spent the morning watching the live press conference by Obama saying Osama was killed. The drone that oversaw the operation quietly took off while I was fast asleep in my container, the runway a scant 500m from where I was. I could not wait to get the hell out of dodge. I walked the boardwalk for the last time, coffee in hand, overhearing conversations. A group of West Virginian reservists were by the coffee shop, and I stopped for a cigarette. Captain’s bars on all 3.

“Did you hear we got that sand nigger last night?”

“Damn straight. Bet he was dead ages ago."

“Well we got one nigger, now all we gotta do is get that nigger in the white house.”

I tossed my smoke and walked away briskly.

These are the men watching over you. These are the people who represent you overseas. These are the people who you send over as the real ambassadors. Sleep tight, America. 

Colin Nash is a writer and former actor who fell into contract work with the United Nations. He has worked in different parts of Africa and spent a six month stint in Afghanistan. He currently resides in Toronto. This post originally appeared on his personal blog, which you can visit here.


Post a Comment