World traveler to speak about China at Coupeville library

World traveler and Asia enthusiast Gerald Kovacich purchased this goat bone blowgun in Indonesia.  - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
World traveler and Asia enthusiast Gerald Kovacich purchased this goat bone blowgun in Indonesia.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

From the ancient Terra Cotta Warriors to the Great Wall to the Buddhist caves, China and Taiwan have thousands of experiences to offer. Gerald Kovacich will help you navigate your trip to China at a presentation on Monday, Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Coupeville Library as part of the library’s travel series.

Kovacich will address general travel questions, touring questions and how to act like a good American abroad, complete with photos of his many trips to China.

Kovacich’s eyes light up when he speaks of the Shaolin Temple, with its forest of pagodas holding the ashes of high-ranking monks, the impressive Terra Cotta Warriors, art meant to protect the emperor buried there and the modern architecture of Shanghai.

“There’s some cool-looking buildings,” said Kovacich, a modern architecture buff. He noted the 1,500-foot tall Pearl Tower with a clear glass floor at the top that he wasn’t about to step on.

Kovacich has ridden camels along the Silk Road, toured temples and embraced the ancient history and modern culture of China.

But China means more to Kovacich than an exciting destination.

“I feel comfortable there,” Kovacich said. He’s always looking forward to his next trip. Kovacich said he used to do lectures in Europe but, “I just gravitate back to Asia.”

Kovacich spent 20 years in the Air Force, many of which were in Asia. The Air Force sent him to Asian language school, which he said comes in handy especially when bargaining and listening to vendors discuss the deal in Chinese.

“I don’t tell them I understand,” Kovacich said with a laugh.

The essence of Asia lives in Kovacich’s connection to the Buddhist philosophy of life, which calls for patience, compassion and love, as well as in his home. Asian paintings adorn the walls and Kovacich has met most of the artists. Handmade furniture and Buddha statues bring Asian history into his home and temple dogs guard doorways.

While Asia has made an impact on Kovacich, he’s also making an impact on Asia. While traveling in Cambodia, he came across the Grace English Center, which teaches children English.

“There’s no running water or electricity but parents send them to this school to learn English,” Kovacich said.

When he visited, Kovacich noticed that the children had no books aside from textbooks. When he returned to America, he purchased used children’s books at a library book sale and sent them to the children, who loved them. Since then, he has sent more than 200 books.

This has become a project for Kovacich and he welcomes everyone to donate used children’s books via a box at the Coupeville Library. His goal is to collect 250 more books by Feb. 1 to send to the children in April in time for their New Year’s holiday.

“I’d like to be able to give them these books so each kid can have one to keep for New Year’s,” Kovacich said.

Most Asian children learn English but most Americans don’t learn Chinese, Kovacich said.

“I always encourage people to take Chinese and understand Asia and work for an international organization and get good pay, travel and have fun,” Kovacich said, adding that the Chinese market is booming.

Capitalism is alive and well in China, with people starting new businesses, buying cars and traveling, Kovacich said.

“I can stand in Tiananmen Square and see 30 high-rise cranes building and building and building,” Kovacich said.

“It’s a good place to visit. The people are very nice,” Kovacich said, adding that as a guest in the country, tourists shouldn’t try to change the people’s ways of thinking or their government.

While people assume it’s very expensive to travel so far, in his presentation, Kovacich will address how to travel well but affordably. Not including airfare to and from China, for two people to spend 12 days traveling around China, going to shows, eating and staying in five-star hotels, Kovacich said they spent approximately $4,200.

From the pros and cons of group tours to traversing the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, Kovacich will pique travelers’ curiosity and prepare them for adventure.

There’s so much to see; “you could spend months. I would recommend the trip to everybody,” Kovacich said.


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