Racket Boy – An autobiography by Philip George

Appreciating Similarities, Respecting Differences

Argentina grows on me like Italy has, as each day I take in Phil’s travel notes, photos and the occasional video while he slow-travels the length and breadth of the country he calls “my place”.

The two countries may have more than seven thousand miles separating them yet the glaring similarities between them cannot be missed, especially when I reflect on my own travel experiences with Phil during the Italy chapter of our gruelling Racket Boy backshadowing journeys for a proper feel of the book’s main theme of wanderlust and the search for home.

I recall one evening on my last visit to San Romano when an Italian friend engaged Phil in a conversation about his impending Argentina trip. It followed an animated exchange on the mass migration of Italians to Argentina resulting in analogous cultural influences. Even through the visitor’s halting English there was no doubting his soft spot for Argentina and support for the South American country against England in the Malvinas dispute. Both men, I noticed, used Malvinas over the English-preferred Falkland Islands.

The commonalities between the Italian and Latino cultures are reflected in their vibrant languages and for the most part their manners of speaking, culinary traditions going by the outdoor meals over wine that Phil’s been having, boisterous social “festas”, strong family values, and most definitely, close-knit community living culture. I see the consistencies even more as I read up on the Roman empire, the Renaissance, Christianity (Catholicism really) the Romance languages, Balkan states etc; as well as from knowing the Italian language is descended from Latin, which makes Italians much more well-disposed towards Latin America than other European countries sharing Latin roots.

Similarly, I also marvel at the parallels between the Amazon basin and Malaysia’s rich rainforested terrains! Wind-swept roads, rugged architecture, lively tropical environments (certainly similar plant life), free-roaming dogs, cats, chicken, buildings that blend a charming rudimentary tradition with modernity, and even the physical features of the natives – much of rural Argentina mirrors what you’d find in Malaysia’s interior kampungs (villages) and mountainous regions, except for the food and local customs it would seem, although I’m pretty certain the warmth and generosity of people from both countries won’t differ by much.

Certainly, the differences between these nations are as pronounced as pasta is to empanada, but for now, I find the shared threads more intriguing!

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