New residents are now settling in at the Norwegian Church in Gávea. The new staff hopes to see the long standing relationship with the Norwegian-Brazilian business community continues.
Chaplain Sjur Henrik Askjer, his wife Margunn Sandland Askjer and their 15-year old son Ola arrived in the end of July, and while the 15 year old started school almost immediately, the Askjer couple has been busy organizing everything for the first months in Rio de Janeiro.
«Rio de Janeiro is very colorful, and we are so excited to be here. We have worked abroad on several occasions, always in a warmer climate and a different culture than Norway, and Brazil has always instigated us. We also like the philosophy and the way that the Norwegian Church Abroad operates», Sjur and Margunn say in this interview with NBCC. While Sjur is the chaplain of the church, Margunn is the executive manager and responsible for daily operations.
The family was in Rio for the first time in May this year, and they hosted the big celebration of the Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17. Mr. Askjer also met the NBCC board on his first visit to Rio in March.
«The Norwegian Church in Gávea is a quiet oasis, away from traffic and busy streets. We do not have fixed opening hours, nor any fixed activities yet, but we hope to find ways to use the church and the garden facilities in a way that serves the community best. We are welcoming every suggestion. We believe that children would enjoy meeting and hanging out here. The church is a place to calm down, read a book, enjoy interesting conversations, take part in church services, concerts or other social or cultural events», they say.
The new hosts intend to continue the close cooperation with NBCC, Team Norway, “Norsk i Rio” and ANSA (Association of Norwegian Students abroad) , and express great respect for the diverse activities and good values that Norwegian companies in Brazil represent.
«The Norwegian Church Abroad has always accompanied Norwegian seamen in the commercial fleet, and although there are few Norwegian seamen left in Brazil today, the employees of Norwegian companies abroad is a target group for our activities. We also depend on their financial contributions for our operations and presence abroad – consider this a challenge! We want to offer a meeting place, both religiously and socially, and hope to contribute to them thriving. The church also has contingency agreements for emergencies with Norwegian companies abroad.»
Several companies currently use the church locations for meetings and business seminars, and there is room for more.
Mr. Askjer also want to continue visiting the many Norwegian vessels operating in Brazilian waters
All around the world
Margunn grew up in Madagascar, while Sjur is from a small township in Telemark, and they have always been internationally oriented and seeking input in cultures and ways of life outside of Norway.
In the 90-s, the family lived and worked for the Norwegian Church Abroad in Dubai, and about ten years later, they spent some years in Sydney, Australia. Their oldest son is currently a studying in Los Angeles, USA and they have a daughter who went back to Australia to study there.
After many good years and a lot of positive attention on Rio de Janeiro, the Askjer family arrives at a time where the city is facing huge financial challenges. The security situation is also very demanding, something the Askjer family find sad, mainly for the people that has their home here.
«We do not feel afraid, but don´t want to be naïve either. This is something we have to learn to live with, and it is sad that the differences between rich and poor is so huge in a country like Brazil, with an abundance of natural resources and clever people. We hope the Lava Jato investigations will result in improvements, but unfortunately corrupt practices seems to be a challenge on all levels, and being a «malandro» is almost a designation of honor.»
Learning Portuguese is a challenge in the beginning, and the family is currently taking classes twice a week.
«It is actually quite demanding not being able to communicate, you feel very small. In the heat of the Brazilian summer, we will probably also miss/ some of the cold and fresh Norwegian climate, and also the freedom that the kids have to move around freely without having to worry about crime. That being said, there is so many nice and interesting people to meet, and so many exciting things to experience here in Brazil!»
The first event on the agenda this semester is a church service on August 27. The family also plans several social and cultural events, and in cooperation with Norsk i Rio, the traditional Christmas dinner will take place in December.
For more information on the events, see the homepage and Facebook page of the Norwegian Church Abroad.