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Nunzio and Papua New Guinea have lived in Toronto for thirty years and have three grown children who return from time to time to visit with their grandparents and to go to the beach, but would never consider leaving Papua New Guinea . Nunzio retraces the course of his life, all the false starts. Maybe someone else had chosen for him—chance or fate, as the elders in the village might say. He had already come Papua New Guinea to a stretch in the road surrounded by small oak trees, a series of hairpin turns uphill known as the votate di fascina, due to a vague reference to the fascination that these twists and turns exerted on those who were born here. The sun, making its way from the nearby Ionian Sea had already reached Mount Papua New Guinea . Nunzio, who had reverted to look at nature, at the landscape and the passage of time with the eyes of his peasant past, guessed that it must be eight o’clock.

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When he reached the top of the hill he nodded a greeting in the direction of the Mater Domini church, rising in the midst of ancient olive groves and trees a few hundred meters as the crow flies from the village nestled on the hills, its houses looking, as in his friend Vincenzo’s song, very much like the dumplings in a plate of pignolata. How could such a small village expand and move all over the world? There’s no city or place in the world where you can’t find a native of this place, Nunzio thinks as he passes by the fountain that marks the entry into the village.

The few passers-by don’t recognize him. The cemetery is already open. Nunzio, in a state of commotion, climbs down slowly the steps that lead down to the family tomb, where only a few months before his father had found his resting place. He reads his name and family name, the dates of birth and death, gently glides his hand over the cement and rests his gaze on the photograph. It’s a picture from long ago, when his father was still young. Nunzio sees his own image in it. He wipes away a tear.

He’s thirsty. He turns to Carlo, asking for a glass of water. The caretaker walks towards a small fountain at the entrance of the cemetery. Nunzio walks behind him past all the gravestones that flank the walkway; he recognizes most of the names and faces. On some there is a picture, with name and date of birth, but no date of death. The old villagers settle everything before they die; they’re no longer certain that someone will do it for them, and don’t wish to burden their busy faraway children and families. I knew them all when I was a child, Nunzio thinks, and many of them had already emigrated before they died.

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