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Evans: There#039;s more to Palau than #039;Survivor#039;

Since he was a boy, Dr. Dan Evans, Dean of Ohio University Southern, had heard tales of his mother's picturesque island homeland.

As an adult, he was able to travel to Palau, a tiny region that has been on the tips of the tongues of reality TV junkies everywhere in recent weeks.

The Republic of Palau is a group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Philippines. As a basis for comparison, the islands have a combined landmass about two-thirds the size of Lawrence County, with a population approximately one-third of ours.

The small islands have received big press lately, as Palau is ground zero for the contestants currently battling it out on the small screen to see who will become the million-dollar winner on CBS's popular reality program, "Survivor."

Evans' mother split her time in Palau between Beliliou and capital city Koror, a name that may ring a bell for Survivor fanatics, as it is the namesake of one of the show's competing teams.

She lived on Palau until 1948 when she met Evans' father, a Navy sailor stationed on the islands, who brought her home with him to Lawrence County.

Evans still has family on the islands, in fact, it would seem that being an authority figure runs through his bloodline. His uncle is the former president of Palau, and his first cousin is currently serving as vice president.

Evans' knowledge of Palau was gleaned only from pictures he had seen and stories had been told. That all changed however in 1988, when he traveled to the islands for a family reunion. The reality of the island's beauty was even more overwhelming than he what he had pictured as a boy.

"If you imagine what a tropical island paradise would look like, that would describe Palau," Evans said. "There's lush, emerald-green vegetation and turquoise water, the water was crystal clear."

Even more stunning to Evans was the warm reception of the island's people, who treated him as if he were one of their own.

"They just opened their arms up and said 'Yes! You're family,'" Evans said. "It was almost like finding a long-lost relative."

Though Evans was not a fan of Survivor before, he admits to watching some of this season to see if the Palau that is portrayed on the program is an accurate depiction of a land he has such a deep connection to.

Though it's nice for the islands to get some publicity, Evans feels as though Survivor isn't really giving Palau a fair shake.

"I've been disappointed that they haven't really shown much of what the islands are like," Evans said. "From what I've seen of the program, it doesn't give the viewer much information on what Palau is really like. It's a very Westernized country, they have all the modern conveniences, everyone speaks English, the currency there is U.S. currency."

Those who wish to catch a glimpse the islands for themselves can watch "Survivor: Palau," currently airing Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBS. But they would do well to remember that they are only receiving a sliver of the rich history and culture of Evans' ancestral homeland.