Last Monday (2/23), we drove to Sartene from Bonifacio. We had found the only hotel in Bonifacio after the longish drive from Bastia where the ferry dropped us off on Sunday morning. We stayed two nights in Bonifacio, where we could see Sardinia from the city walls. There wasn’t much going on there, most likely because it was a Sunday when we arrived, but also as we found out on Monday, there just aren’t a ton of people living in Bonifacio and it is pretty shut down when the tourists aren’t there. That made Sartene a welcome change for us and when we pulled in during lunch on Monday. The restaurants on the plaza were filled with young people. Apparently Sartene has a University and is also considered by the Corsican author, Prosper Merimee the most Corsican of Corsican towns. We decided that Sartene was where we wanted to spend the bulk of our time in southern Corsica and decided to return the following day and find a place.
On the island, most of the hotels run about E60 a night if you are lucky. The other option is to stay in something called a “chambre d’hote” which is usually either in someone’s home or a renovated portion of a building meant for tourists. After trying all the places listed that were barely in our price range, we decided to stop and eat lunch. It was the first really warm day on the island, but as we would find out later, Sartene gets sun when other parts of the island are cold and cloudy. I wanted to soak it up, so I turned my face to the south and closed my eyes. Mike on the other hand is much more proactive about finding things. He can’t just sit in the sun when we don’t have a place to sleep, so he went walking around to find us a hotel or room. He had been gone about 20 minutes, when he returned with the news that he had found a place fr E60 a night in a woman’s house. He had found her niece on the street and had asked. We talked briefly and since E60 was actually over our whole days budget (yes, we are THAT cheap!), I turned my face back to the sun. Mike said “Are you just going to sit here until I come back with better news?” and I said “I guess so.”
About 10 minutes later, he did. He had gone back to the ladies in the street and they had told him that we could stay in a convent for half the price of the room. It was perfect timing, since the sun was going behind a cloud anyway, so we drove over to the convent and knocked on the door. The sun had returned, so again, I sat and let my face get hot while Mike went in. When he called me over and we walked in to the dark stone church, I got really excited because it was in all honesty a lot creepy. The hall to the room had no lights except for the mary statue and it smelled old. When Mike asked what I thought, I gave an emphatic thumbs up, knowing it would at least be an experience.
So now, we found ourselves staying in a convent with four Fathers (or Brothers as they refer to each other) and some creepy paintings and statues. All of the depictions of the figures look really really sad. To get to our room you enter through a small door to the right of the church. You ring Father Joseph and he greets you at the door. As you step in, an illuminated statue of Mary is to your left and the hallway is dark. There aren’t any lights until you get to our room. You can turn them on right next to the statue of St Francis of Azzizi (my Jewish boyfriend has to tell me who all of the characters are) looking sad, which is right next to the staircase, which houses a ten foot painting of Jesus on the cross floating above another saint. There are two separate beds in our room and a painting of Mary and baby Jesus hangs above them. When you look out the window, immediately below is the garden, which is beautiful and it overlooks pastures and the valley. If you look straight out our window however, you look directly at the old cemetery. There are about 7 rooms down the hall, but we are the only people staying here other than the four fathers. They inhabit a different area, which we saw today has spectacular views and a great kitchen. If you want to go to the bathroom from our room, you must walk all the way down the hall in partial darkness to the last door, all the while looking at statues of religious figures. The light for the hall is right next to our room and is timed, so when you get done using the bathroom, you have to walk back in the dark, except of course the good old illuminated statues.
I know we took this place because we knew it would push us, Mike being Jewish and I having no religious affiliations. Mike told Father Joseph on the first day that we were here to learn, though I think Mike was talking about their way of life and Father Joseph interprets it as wanting to learn about the Catholic church, so upon each meeting, we get to hear more and more about Christianity and giving up worldly possessions. It’s not so bad for me, I just want to get better at French, but Mike actually has to understand.
The hardest thing for me has been my partial understanding of the church and my literal fear of religious figures. For the first few days, I really felt like they were looking at me. When Mike wanted to push the beds together, I looked up at the Mary painting and thought about her watching us. I now deal with it well though, in the same way I dealt with the really creepy room in our house in Seattle which I am sure houses some lost souls. I talk to them like they are current day people. It really helps me, so much so that I can walk unattended down the hall to the bathroom without getting freaked out.
I’ll say things like when we walk in I’ll say “Hey Mary, hows it going? Thanks for keeping this hall dimly lit with your wreath of lights.”
And in the stairs as I go to the kitchen, “Whoa Jesus, it must be warmer there than in my room, cus I’m wearing like eight layers right now and you’ve only got a loin cloth on.”
The Mary above our beds started out formal, “Hey Mary, good looking kid you’ve got there. Why so sad, does he need a diaper change? Should I get that for you? No, you like servitude? Suit yourself. Oh and by the way, thanks for watching me sleep I love it. It makes me feel awesome.” But now, she is sort of a mediator and we sometimes include her in what’s going on. The other day I turned around and Mike was changing and he was only wearing his fanny pack. Before, I would have been really embarrassed, but I just looked at Mary and said, “Mary, what would you do with a boy like that?” to which Mike got really excited and started jumping around, yelling at Mary, “You can’t tame me, tell her you can’t tame me. You can’t tame a hawk.” I am not really ashamed to say, it goes like this quite often. There are a lot of statues and no one else staying in the church, so they keep us company. Our beds are now pushed together and Mary doesn’t seem to mind, she’s just taking care of her kid, you know. We all gotta do what we gotta do.