from “Mali; the Bradt Travel Guide”

“… the people get on remarkably well together. This ethnic harmony is often attributed to Mali’s most precious asset: Social Capital.  This concept is almost the opposite of financial capital and cannot be neatly defined in terms of GNP, GDP, or national debt.  Instead, social capital relates to cultural, spiritual, and human values, where interaction between people is more important than individual wealth.  In this way, we can talk about rich countries with poor people and poor countries with rich people.  Mali falls into the latter category.  Due in part to strong historical ties, but also because of the hard environment and difficult living condition, relationships between different sets of neighbors in Mali are based on mutual respect and interdependence.  There is a strong sense of both family and community, which transcends clan and ethnic affiliations and, despite depressing economic statistics, makes Mali on of the world’s richest countries in human terms.”

After a week and a half, I can honestly say that this statement is not only true in an academic sense, but is something that I feel in the street and during all of my interactions during the day.  I’ve never felt anything like it in all my travels.