As this newsletter is being composed, I am in the middle of a four month sabbatical leave in Germany. It is with tongue in cheek that I claim editorship of the newsletter as most of the composition is done (as usual) with great efficiency by our departmental secretary Gail Tyson, who receives most of the material by e-mail from our contributors.
I am here at the University of Bielefeld as guest of Professor Andreas Dress, who many of you will have met during his 1993 NZMS visiting lectureship. The mathematics department here has an enthusiastic attitude for research and provides a stimulating atmosphere for collaboration. Having not previously taken such a period of sabbatical leave (for logistic and financial reasons) I would now recommend it for any serious researcher. The exposure to different ideas, knowledge and mathematical culture is a valuable adjunct to the development of new mathematics. And by far the most important, is finding that goodwill and hospitality is universal!
It is also educational to have exposure to a different society, to experience the frustrations of not having a good command of the language, to get a sense of history, and for those of us of a European heritage, to sense a personal connection to events of many centuries past. We have enjoyed a little touring, we made a pilgrimage to Göttingen, the self proclaimed "Navel of the Mathematical world", with its statue of Gauss and Weber in mathematical discussion. We have also retraced the footsteps of the children of Hamelin in their pursuit of the Pied Piper!
There is a romantic appeal among many of the young German people for New Zealand, as an unspoilt paradise. This appeal encourages them to leave their own beautiful country and travel the world as tourists, as students, and as colleagues. I find it disheartening to think that many of the things they see as appealing are either fading or illusory. However it is our responsibility to try to preserve as much as possible the positive features of New Zealand that encourage people to spend more than 24 hours confined to an airline seat, and to alleviate our isolation by their contact. It is very much to our own benefit that we can encourage them to visit.