Monday, March 15, 2004

Hawaii's Schools

David Mas Masumoto, author of "Epitaph for a Peach," visited students in Susan Igawa's Asian American Experience class during his two-week visit to the Iolani campus in February.

Writer inspires
pride for Iolani

Students welcome David Masumoto
with a collection of food with
special meaning

If you thought the aloha spirit only reached those across the span of the Hawaiian Islands, think again.

In honor of the late distinguished AP English teacher Harold Keables, Iolani School annually dedicates two weeks to Keables' passion: learning.

This year, Iolani School was fortunate to have award-winning author, eloquent public speaker and passionate farmer David Mas Masumoto, who inspired the Iolani community with his quiet knowledge and gentle insight.

In a meeting with the Keables Chair in February, the entire school, including the Imua staff, enjoyed his warm personality, positive energy and humble wisdom. Not only did we leave with tips for better writing and a method for picking the perfect peach, we also left with a sense of pride in our local culture.

Prior to the meeting with the author of "Epitaph for a Peach," the editors of Imua Iolani organized a potluck in honor of Masumoto. Lunch included somen salad, fried rice, Spam musubi, lumpia, haupia, malasadas and taro mochi.

Masumoto enjoyed the local food almost as much as he enjoyed the story behind each dish. During lunch each editor described the contents of his or her dish, who prepared it and why it was so special or representative of them.

Though many of us were surprised at how many remarks began with, "Well, I didn't really have much time, so my mom (aunt or grandmother) helped me," Masumoto was awed by the close connection each dish had to our culture.

Junior Kiyomi Dong, the editorial editor, said: "I brought the taro mochi because it represents how Hawaii is a blending of culture. Mochi is a Japanese tradition, but taro is a major part of Hawaiian culture. So it shows how in Hawaii everyone mixes their traditions."

Masumoto said a similar potluck held in California would have consisted of pizza and takeout from Taco Bell.

What surprised Masumoto most was how quickly and unanimously the Imua staff responded when asked what food its members would miss the most if they were to leave Hawaii: "Rice!" He was impressed with how they could distinguish the difference between a specific food item and an entire dish or meal.

Masumoto later explained that his daughter would have simply answered, "Home-cooked food."

Besides a great appreciation for food, Masumoto also cherishes farming and writing. His first major composition, "Epitaph for a Peach," is much more than just a book about a peach farmer in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Rather, Masumoto, like a painter, blends together all aspects of life on the farm, from the intense relationship with nature to his victories and defeats, and finally to family.

Masumoto never expected to become an author. He wanted to experience life outside the farm but wanted to avoid big-city life. After going away for college at the University of California at Berkeley, Masumoto returned to the farm, where he found inspiration for his writing. He admits to taking notes in the fields and on tractors. However, the majority of his writing is done indoors.

Some years ago, Masumoto had a room that overlooked his farm. He sat at a desk in front of a large window and did most of his writing there. However, he recently moved into the basement and writes at a desk directly in front of a brick wall. When the verdant vistas of spring, summer and early autumn caught his wandering imagination, much less actual writing took place.

Masumoto's trained eye no longer needs to see his topics of interest; he can simply visualize them -- so much so that he was able to explain to the Imua Iolani staff how to pick the perfect peach with little assistance.

Masumoto also reads much of his writing aloud to make sure it not only looks suitable on paper, but sounds good as well.

Masumoto is content with where he is, and years from now would like to be remembered as a "good farmer and a good writer."

Why not excellent? Masumoto responded: "Well, how do you judge an excellent farmer? By the amount of money he makes? And a writer by how many books he sells?"

Masumoto does not farm for money, nor does he write to become the next best seller. He simply does what he enjoys and hopes that someone else can enjoy his harvest, as well as his writing.

Iolani seniors Jeffrey Lawi, left, Jessica Yang and Franklyn Lau were among the students who took part in prestigious academic programs last summer.

5 students devote summer
to university-level research

Imagine giving a speech to an audience consisting of hundreds of friends, classmates and respected teachers. Adrenaline flowing and hearts pounding are what seniors Jeff Lawi, Franklyn Lau, Mathew Ardo, Jessica Yang and junior Justin Nakamura experienced.

Last summer, these students participated in prestigious academic programs across the world. Lawi completed extensive asteroid research in New Mexico; Lau conducted compelling environmental research in the South Pacific; Ardo investigated math in Nebraska; Yang studied at an MIT summer program; and Nakamura joined a reef study in conjunction with the University of Hawaii.

Lawi attended the Summer Science Program in Socorro, N.M. His work included determining the orbit of the asteroid (56) Melete.

Lawi said: "The program was good because it brought all the sciences together and gave students a real understanding of what real scientists do. There were no grades, so it was left up to the students to do the work."

Lau also had a once-in-a-lifetime experience while on Palmyra Atoll in the central Pacific. He worked with other students to test an experimental ant eradication technique while hiking around the atoll and discovering its various unique animals and plants.

Lau said he learned "how interconnected things are in general ecology because if the ants are allowed to kill the tree Pisonia grandis, then all of the animals which eat and pollinate with this tree will die. Eventually, the effects will trickle down to all living things on the atoll."

Yang participated in a biology project, studying the mutant zebra fish, or Acerebrella, and researched at the Forsyth Dental Institute in Boston for her MIT project.

She said, "The hands-on experience with biological experiments one on one with the professor gave the students an opportunity most high school and even college students can't have."

Nakamura examined the effects of secondary plant metabolites in bioremediation of xenobiotics compounds at the University of Hawaii, assisting UH researchers in exploring the use of bacteria to clean up bodies of water.

In discussing the importance of the project, Nakamura said, "With the increased pollution of modern society, alternatives must be explored to help clean up bodies of water."

Ardo attended the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program, a 14-day intensive math program in Nebraska designed for the mathematical elite who earned top scores in the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad. The students spent their days finding solutions to exceptionally difficult mathematics problems.

According to Ardo's presentation, "The program is important because it is used to pick the six members of the team representing the United States of America in International Math Olympiad."

All of these intelligent students had extraordinary summers. Many of them helped scientists conduct important experiments and explore concepts that will aid future studies. More important, they learned the skills necessary to carry out research, ensuring their competence in future projects.

For Lawi it was also essential for the students to share their experiences "to let other students know about the program."

Junior Bobby Cannell summed it up: "The students' talks were important because now I know that these types of programs are available to me. Now I am looking into attending one of these programs or a similar one."


About 'Hawaii's Schools'

Each week, Hawaii's teenage reporters and photographers tell us about their high school. This week's school is Iolani School.

Newspaper: Imua 'Iolani
Editors: Janna Normington and Nicole Tanabe
Associate editors: Kiyomi Dong, Edward Fan, Elizabeth Kagehiro, Nina Krek, Sara-Anne Lee, She Ning Li, Denise Otani, Sarah Stone, Sherrie Totoki, Sean Uyeoka, Matthew Won, Melissa Woods
Faculty adviser: Robert Stern
Consultant: Charlie Proctor
Next week: Mililani High School


Raider facts

Address: 563 Kamoku St., Honolulu 96826
Founded: 1863 (at current location since 1953)
Headmaster: Val Iwashita
Web site:
Enrollment: 1,822
Average class size: 16
Campus size: 25 acres
Mascot: Raiders
Colors: Red, black and white
Name origin: 'Iolani = heavenly hawk; named by Queen Emma
Notable alumni: Sun Yat-Sen, Mufi Hannemann, Hollywood producer Christopher Lee


You Asked...

"Does President Bush deserve
four more years as president?"

Shayna Langser
"No. He doesn't take anyone else's opinions into account."

Trevor Manu
"Yes, I support Bush's attempts to ban gay marriage."

Andrew Dexter
"Yes, President Bush has the courage to stand up for traditional values."

Austin Barnes
"No, his actions in office and the intentions behind them warrant his immediate removal."

Gitrasree Borthakur
"No, we need a president who is aware of problems at home and takes a more balanced approach to foreign affairs."

Courtney Wai
"Yes. My parents and I support his strong leadership during difficult times."

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