As most of our readers know, since 2014 Jonathan Dunn has been HMCG Rio or, written out: Her [Britannic] Majesty’s Consul General in Rio de Janeiro. He and his family – wife Karen, sons William and George – have been an integral part of our local community during their stay here, but they will soon be leaving us to return to the UK.
Once again, most of our readers know that in the New Year’s Honours List, Queen Elizabeth granted Jonathan Michael Dunn Esquire “The Dignity of an Ordinary Officer of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire” otherwise known as OBE.
The Umbrella is pleased to present an informal Q&A interview below.
We first came out to Brasília in 2009, where I worked with the Embassy for five years; in August 2014 we were reassigned to Rio de Janeiro, so when we leave in July it will have been almost eight consecutive years in Brazil.
Quite different, actually. Rio is spectacular, lively, pulsing, full of extremes, beauty and violence. Beautiful, vivid colours on the one hand, profound darkness on the other. Brasília is more grey, middle of the road. Nothing very exciting nor difficult, – none of Rio’s excesses. It may be surprising to many Cariocas, but for us Brasília was a very livable place, easy to have a family life; Rio’s great, but more challenging.
Most definitely. When we arrived, the residence in Jardim Pernambuco was isolated from the rest of town; it was out of the way, difficult to access and difficult to use as an official residence should be used. We were fortunate to succeed in moving to our current apartment in Parque Guinle, Laranjeiras.
Almost everything, both personally and professionally. The kids are much closer to school, Karen to the community, and I could (and did) walk to work at the Consulate. The residence is larger than it was, more room for events and more rooms for visitors, official and otherwise.
Even in normal times, we regularly get visitors out to Rio on official business, and we often put them up at the residence (it saves on hotel expense). But the Olympic period was exceptional. Just in the 17 days of the Games, we had 50 nights of official guests – many where all of the guest rooms and more were full.
Really well, all things considered. There were a few times when one of them would wander into breakfast in the morning and ask the latest guest “who are you?” but they took it in their strides. One high point was when Prince Edward visited — George made a point of hanging around till he could talk to the Prince.
“here for them”… what can you say to that?
In Rio, we expend much of our effort on victims of crime and complex welfare cases, which have quite often involved mental health issues. These take careful handling to ensure the person gets what they need from the Brazilian system, or from the individual’s support networks in the UK.
Because of this focus on those most in need, our work tends to involve tourists and other visitors, because they do not have the support networks, language and knowledge of those who live in Rio. In fact, long-term residents may not need the help we can offer, although we’re always there to help if we can.
When people come to us for help, I like them to first ask themselves the question: “if you were in the UK, would you go for assistance to a government office in this situation?” If they would, we will probably be able to help. If they wouldn’t, it’s less likely that we can.
Voting in the upcoming election is possible for UK citizens abroad, by post or by proxy, although the registration date will have passed by the time this issue comes out. There are some limitations, e.g. you must have resided in the UK within the last 15 years. www.gov.uk/votingwhen- abroad has all the details.
Thanks, Jonathan, for granting us this opportunity to chat, and of course congratulations for your honours, which are richly earned. The Rio community will miss you and your family, and we wish you the best in whatever you do, wherever it takes you.