The term "sabbatical" derives from the word "Sabbath" and both mean a rest from work. In many universities, academics may qualify for a paid (either fully or partially) sabbatical every 6 or 7 years. This type of sabbatical is different from what one hears about in the magazines and newspapers in which people take so-called sabbaticals from their supposedly high-pressure jobs to go trekking in Nepal or write poetry.
These are certainly worthwhile pursuits, but an academic sabbatical is not like this. In my sabbatical I do go to work, Monday to Friday, 9 to 6. I am visiting João, a professor here at the Universidade do Minho in Braga, and the department here has graciously provided me with a desk and a speedy internet connection - which is really all that I need. A lot of the work I do now is the same as what I do at home - working with my graduate students, often via Skype, to write papers about our research results, consult with students on their dissertations, etc. The "rest" part of the sabbatical comes in the fact that I have no teaching or departmental committees to take time away from research. This is a good thing. João, his students, and I have also been working on something called "bi-directional transformations" and this is a new research topic for me and a big part of my reason for coming to Braga. This is work we intend to continue when I return to Minnesota. We have even secured a grant from the Fundação Luso-Americana, a foundation the supports research between Portuguese and American collaborators, to fund the travel costs of João and his students to come to Minnesota at various times in the next 18 months to continue this work. I also have some funds that will support our travel back to Braga.
So even though all our previous blog entries have been about living, eating, and imbibing in Portugal, some actual work does get done!