Last night I had a problem. I got home from a very long day at work and needed to bake a cake, but I didn't have enough butter. In Guinea there is no 7-11 on the corner, no 24-hour pharmacy with an emergency grocery section. But I have neighbors! Neighbors I can call who will turn up at my house less than five minutes later with a block of butter in hand. How novel! How delightful!
In DC I lived in a sprawling apartment complex full of students and other yuppies. Or at least that's what they looked like when I passed them in the halls, since I didn't actually know any of them. I laid eyes on my immediate neighbors perhaps three to five times each before they moved out and were replaced by another equally anonymous but slightly different new occupant. I never knew any of their names and would not have recognized them at a restaurant or on the Metro.
But I didn't really *need* my neighbors in DC either. If I had to have butter, even at 4 o'clock in the morning, I could have it in the space of ten minutes from my friendly local convenience store. Other life needs, material or otherwise, could be handled with similar ease and expediency by enterprising participants in the local economy or my network of friends and acquaintances.
In Guinea things are a little different, and when you need a cup of sugar or whatever it's nice to have a neighbor to turn to.