A stunning short film shows what life is like for a centuries-old nomadic community.

'You can get internet literally anywhere these days.'

"There is 3G service in even the most remote places," Brandon Li explained.

It sounds like I'm quoting a cellphone commercial, but Li's actually a filmmaker. He recently spent a month in the vast grasslands of Mongolia.


Image from "Nomads of Mongolia"/Brandon Li/Vimeo.

In his visually stunning short film "Nomads of Mongolia," he shows us what life, work, and play look like for the Kazakh shepherds who've roamed those lands for centuries — and how it's changing.

Believe it or not, "most of the nomads have cellphones," Li says.

The Diplomat wrote that it's the only way for parents to keep tabs on their children who live in cities. But the cellphone isn't the only sign of modernity entering nomadic life.

Photo by Ansley Sawyer, used with permission.

Ansley Sawyer, a producer on the film, added, "Instead of shepherding on horseback, it's sometimes easier to herd by motorcycle." She also noted that while the nomads once relied on livestock-drawn carriages to move their camps, today they use Jeeps and trucks.

"I'll never forget watching an eagle hunter climb on top of his Russian Jeep to get better reception and to update his Facebook," said Sawyer. "You can get internet literally anywhere these days."

But the ways of the old world are still alive (not the least badass of which is the aforementioned eagle hunting).


"A massive, deadly parakeet." Image from "Nomads of Mongolia"/Brandon Li/Vimeo.

"[One] thing that surprised me was the day-to-day experience of having a pet eagle," said Li. "To the nomads, it's just a part of the household — like a massive, deadly parakeet. Once the winter arrives, it gets to stretch its wings and hunt."

(You should definitely watch the video at the bottom to see one in action.)

As the modern world shapes their way of life, one thing never changes for these nomads: their love of family.

"Everyone's focus is to strengthen and support the family," said Sawyer. And amid the desolation of the Mongolian steppe, that focus is as sharp as their eagles' sight.

From family values to a reliance on the natural world, we can find reflections of ourselves even in the middle of nowhere.

Even younger family members who leave for cities like Ulaanbaatar for education and work keep strong connections to home.


Image from "Nomads of Mongolia"/Brandon Li/Vimeo.

"I think the urbanized people of Mongolia still have pretty strong ties to their nomadic history," Li told me. "Some of them told me they couldn't sleep in the city — too many noises at night. For many of them, the move to the city isn't necessarily a permanent one."

Still, the world isn't always changing for the better.

In addition to family, the only other thing the nomads can count on is nature. "The Kazakh people are totally dependent on their environment," Sawyer said. "They move the herd through the summer and settle down for the winter after harvesting a percentage of their flock."

Climate change is making it more difficult for the nomads to maintain their way of life.

Image from "Nomads of Mongolia"/Brandon Li/Vimeo.

"Mongolia is becoming drier and drier, which is making it more difficult for the nomads to find land for their animals to graze," Li explained. "This is forcing some of them to give up their lifestyle and move to cities."

Sawyer also noted that many families in the treeless region use coal to heat their homes. But the rising cost of coal has created yet another tension that divides families as young people take to cities to earn money to support their families.

Most of us will never be able to fully relate to the nomads' pastoral way of life, but Li's film shows we may actually have a lot in common.

From family values to a reliance on the natural world, we can find reflections of ourselves even in the middle of nowhere.

Watch "Nomads of Mongolia," a short film by Brandon Li:

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

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Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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