Luke Wren ’14 – This week has been full of experiments. My research associate Sanjeev and I have conducted five separate experiments this past week and now only have a few mortality assessments this week. Although I won’t bore anyone with raw data…we have looked at how insecticide-treated bednets affect the triatomine bug (the vector for the parasite that causes Chagas disease) versus a non-treated bednet, and we have done the same with insecticide paint and IRS (indoor residual spraying). We had workers of the vector control department of the Ministry of Health (MOH) come and spray small pieces of wood and cement block, since these are commonly used housing materials that are usually sprayed with IRS here in Belize.
One of the most important things I have learned from my time in the lab at Wabash until now is reducing variables, or at least controlling the ones you can. For example,  setting up the IRS experiment having the MOH personnel mix the chemical, and spray it using their own sprayer and technique, reduces/controls for variables like operator application (vs. if I were to mix the chemical and spray it myself). Having simple things like this makes for higher quality data.
My stay here so far has involved much more than being bent over a lab bench. I have seen most of Orange Walk, been fishing, and cooked a variety of meals. It gets dark here very early and very quickly, so outside nighttime plans must be accompanied with headlamps and flashlights.
Although this is a fairly quick and concise update, I wanted to share my thoughts on Belizean towns — specifically Orange Walk. I think my favorite part of a small Central American town such as this is all the small shops, restaurants, and market places. I think as an American I have always cherished the convenience of a supermarket like Wal-Mart or Target, but I think we have turned grocery shopping into a timed event rather then a community engaging experience. This isn’t to say we have to have a kum ba ya moment every time we are picking up potatoes, but we should slow down and try to embrace a social gathering place such as a market. Shops here can vary from the size of a room to a two-story building with many aisles. Nearly all stores here have an openness about them — many of them without doors per se — that you can walk into.  I will miss the smallness of the streets here, but I hope I can keep a different mindset when I am shopping in the states.