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— Autobiography —

I grew up in a small town in the countryside of Pennsylvania just a few thickets away from banks of the Delaware. This lovely home nestled between palisade cliffs to the south and the river to the north I have come to call Aquellia, a name I coined from the aquella (Latin for "little stream") that flows through the three-acre property. Aquellia remains for me a most paradisiacal place, adorned beautifully by my artist father's landscape architecture designs and two dozen Japanese maples that welcome the visitor home (for which see Robert Ranieri's website). As a child I would play outside almost every day and every season, especially at the water's edge, always fascinated by the frogs and the insects there.

 

 

Blessed is the only way I can describe my luck at living in such a place, and more importantly to have such wonderful parents who indulged my every curiosity in the world. My father, fluent in Italian and irrevocably bound to that nation's highest culture, excited my young mind about the classical world, ancient Rome and Greece, history of all kinds, and most definitely a great respect for the arts. And my autodidact mother, grounded and practical and extremely well-read, installed within me with a moral core that orients me daily. These characteristics are who I am more fundamentally than anything else — and thus, I owe them everything.

In high school I took German, and in the summer of 2001 my German class went to North Rhine Westphalia for an exchange program at a German school, which was an outstanding first experience abroad. My appetite for interaction with people from other lands, and especially my ravenous interest in foreign languages, has only increased since.

 

 

My life's dream at the start of college was to study abroad in Florence, which is exactly what I did in 2005. This was one of the most formative experiences of my life, becoming truly fluent in another tongue and living with and going to university with Italians. The dearest friends I made there I still talk to and visit with when I can return to Italy. Most profound among my experiences then was traveling to the birthplace of my grandparents in Abruzzo, and even meeting the statue of my literary idol Ovid in his hometown of Sulmona nearby, a story I recount in detail in my book Ranieri Reverse Recall. This statue's copy I would later meet in Constanța, Romania, where Ovid lived out his days in exile, which was a most poetic encounter for me.

Upon my return from Europe, I realized I needed a new dream, and redirected myself into a geology major, inspired by my life-long love of the natural world, and above all my fascination with the planets of the solar system. By astonishing coincidence, many of the graduate students in my university's geology department were from Italy! invited by a professor with connexions to the university in Bologna. This was a very welcoming sign after leaving the official university studies of international relations behind in favor of a scientific career. As my courses in geology progressed apace, in the evenings I would teach night classes in conversational Italian, which was a much more exciting job than former work-study duty at the library circulation desk.

 

 

After college a very fortuitous opportunity came to me when a friend who taught middle school Latin and Spanish needed a polyglot to fill his role after his soon departure from the country. I jumped at the chance and enjoyed that unique experience for a year, and worked hard to earn my private pilot license on the side, my newest passion. It truly is a glorious thing to fly, to be so serene, and to be in complete, relaxed control in the sky over the hills and the towns and the clouds. To this day I know no greater pleasure than soaring high above it all, or racing over the trees at top speed.

Only a few days after I received my private pilot certificate, I drove across the country to San Diego to earn my master's degree in geology and also for Air Force ROTC. After I had my M.S., I was stationed for three years in Tokyo, and for all three years the childhood echo of my father's landscape architecture inspired by Japanese gardens resonated in my soul. Another chance to study abroad was before me, and I did not pass it up! I quickly learned how to converse, and within a year I was teaching Japanese classes filled with as many as 40 Americans. The country of Japan along with its exquisite language, and most especially my dearest friends from there, rapidly became a part of my heart and they remain there warmly to this day, filling my chest with enduring memories of laughter and fascination.

 

 

But my highest goal was to earn my wings as a military pilot, and the best way to achieve that at the time was to leave the Air Force and join the Arizona Army National Guard, which sent me to flight school shortly after they hired me. There I endured the trials of water survival training, S.E.R.E., and learning how to hover in a helicopter. It was an incredible joy to learn to fly the TH-67 Creek, the OH-58 Kiowa, and the UH-60 Black Hawk. I was never prouder than when my parents pinned my wings to my chest.

I am very grateful to the reader for taking the time to scan this brief personal history. My hope has been to convey the causes leading to my passions, and why I continue to this day to aspire to be a polymath. If you have similar ambitions, I invite you to join me on the journey.

 

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LAR