National Endowment for the Humanities Grant


Oregon State University (10 credits)             

Mexico: Integrating History, Language, and Culture

(included cost of travel and residence for 6 weeks)

During the last two weeks of February, 2004 (March 1st deadline) I wrote a grant to study in Mexico for a month . The grant opportunity was available to any teacher in the United States who taught Spanish. However, only 30 teachers in the country would be accepted. Pretty mean odds! But, I gave it my best shot. I wanted this desperately. It would be a dream come true.

The selection committee would inform the applicants on April 1st. It was going to be a ve-r-r-r-r-r-y long month. But, on March 18th my phone rang and the poor man got the message, "I'm sorry, but we don't answer our phone." He started to congratulate me -- via the answer machine when I snatched the receiver up. If you haven't already guessed, I was awarded the $2,800.00 grant. So on July 22, 2004, I boarded a plane to Mexico City and then a bus to Puebla, Mexico (60 miles south of Mexico City).  I lived with a Mexican family for a month and studied with 29 other teachers.

Lupita, Jose, Veronica, and Fernanda

my Mexican Family

Fernanda and Me

My roommate, Karina and Fernanda

The full title of the grant was Oregon International Institute -- Mexico: Integrating History, Language, and Culture and it was funded by the (NEH) National Endowment for the Humanities. It was sponsored by Oregon State University and I received 10 masters credits for my summer work.

My schedule was intense. Each morning my school day began at 7:45 am, which was early for summer! My fellow students and I had an hour of methods classes, two hours of Spanish language classes, (¿Cómo está usted?) and two more hours of classes to learn about Mexican history and culture. Two afternoons per week we took local culture & history excursions. (on-site visits and discussions) Every weekend we traveled to another part of Mexico to continue our Mexican immersion.


We visited Oaxaca, which is famous for its chocolate. We arrived on a festival day and these lovely dancers posed for a photo for me.

OAXACA (pronounced WaHaKa)



In Veracruz, I saw my first tarantula, but my tarantula didn't look as pretty as this one.

Someone screamed.

I yelled, "STOP!"

The doorman stomped!

My tarantula was squooshed.

I didn't get my photo.


That night I made sure my suitcase was closed up tightly. I checked the sheets before I crawled into bed. Then I dreamt of my tarantula, which will last me a lifetime.



Merida was a repeat visit for me. I traveled there several years earlier with my husband, David, who presented his scientific work at a Microbiology conference. I loved seeing Chichen Itza, the ruins of an old Mayan city with its famous pyramid, El Castillo. I even climbed its very steep steps to the top again.

El Castillo Pyramid in Chichen Itza

Mexico City


We spent our last weekend in Mexico City, before we returned to Los Estado Unidos. We strolled through Zocolo Square visited street vendors, people-watched, and listened to street artists. We visited La Casa Azul, the home of famous artists, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. We attended the Folkloric ballet with dancers in the most amazing colorful costumes.

See how blue Frida and Diego's house is. La Casa Azul!

That's why they call it Blue House.

¡OLE! Oh, what happy memories! ¡OLE!

Oh, qué felices recuerdos!

Row, row row, your boat.
Gently down the stream in Xochimilco.
(pronounced "So-she-milco")
Some call it the Venice of Mexico.

My roommate, KARINA and Me.

We never miss a photo op.

You can see many more photos at this site.

Donna O'Donnell Figurski

Children's Book Writer & Teacher

Magna Cum Laude - William Paterson University, New Jersey


Enuff Sed

You can learn more about Me at my blogs:                  

Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury                          

Donna O’Donnell Figurski’s Blog                               

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    © 2018 by Donna O'Donnell Figurski