As Niuniu and her girlfriends Lulu, CC and Beibei enjoy a foot massage at a new spa in Beijing, Niuniu asks: 'If you could choose a time and place to live, when and where would be ideal?' 'I'll have to think about that one, Niuniu,' says Lulu. 'What about you?' Niuniu has her answer ready. 'I'd like to live at the end of the 1960s in America. I'd listen to The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, hang out in Berkeley with authors, beat poets and political activists. There would be a lot of love, passion and sex with men from different ethnicities, and most people would be fighting against racism and sexism. It was an exciting time. Plus, I hear it was wonderful to be an Asian woman in those days.' 'Too bad for you, Niuniu,' says CC. 'By the time you went to America, it was already the 90s. And America was all about Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Big Macs.' 'That's so true,' Niuniu says ruefully. 'It seems like a totally different world.' Then she turns to CC: 'What about you?' 'I'd like to live in China during the Tang dynasty,' CC says. 'China was the centre of the world. The Chinese were confident. Plump women were considered beautiful. You could discuss poetry and drink wine with great poets such as Li Po. And the Tang dynasty had China's only female emperor. I'd like to have had her life.' 'Well, that's unfortunate for you,' Beibei says. 'You live in today's China when skinny models are all over our ads and on TV. Girls use them as role models, as well as those women who take pride in becoming mistresses of rich men.' 'That's true,' says CC. 'Women aren't as liberated as they were in the Tang dynasty. I can never be a female emperor in modern China. So, what about you, Lulu?' 'I'd like to live in ancient Greece during the times of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the other philosophers. People were engaging in serious intellectual debates about philosophy, science, and ethics. They were searching for the meaning of life, instead of just complaining about how to make more money.' Beibei groans. 'Bah!' she says. 'There were plenty of wars in those days. Socrates was put to death by the state. Plato was a wannabe. And Aristotle ultimately left democratic Athens and went to live on the island of Lesbos. Unfortunately, too many philosophy graduates nowadays can't find work, so they drive cabs or wait on tables.' 'All right, Beibei,' says Lulu. 'Why don't you tell us the ideal time and place to live.' 'That's simple: right now, right here.' 'Oh, that's no fun,' says Niuniu. 'I thought we were trying to escape our lives.' 'What's to escape?' asks Beibei. 'We have everything a girl could want right at our fingertips. We've never had it better. Just think about it. What are the great advances of modern civilisation? Transportation and technology. In this era of cell phones, the internet and planes, I can meet a man online, talk to him from anywhere I want, any time I want. To sleep with him, I can board a plane and visit him wherever he may be in the world. Could anyone from the Tang dynasty, ancient Greece, or even the hippies from the 60s do that?' Her friends stare at their pink, freshly softened feet in silence for a few seconds. Niuniu breaks the silence. She smiles sweetly at Beibei. 'No, they couldn't. You're right that today is a much better era. We meet phonies on the internet, the airlines overbook the flights, and we can't roll our unused cell phone minutes into the next month. And what's more, when we finally meet a great guy, he's gay.'