friday, 6:30 am: We arrive at Laval after a nine-hour bus ride from Toronto and immediately feel the cold in our bones. We stumble to the gym where we'll sleep.
Cheyenne shoots me a worried look. This is why: 3,000 sleeping bags full of snoozing protestors spread wall-to-wall, filling every inch of space. That could mean a large radius of snore pollution.
"I feel like I'm in a refugee camp," says Ann.
10:30 am: Boredom sets in as we wait for the Carnival Against Capitalism march to get going. After an hour, people are getting grumpy.
"Let's go!" shouts Ayse, who's had six hours of sleep in the last two days. We make our first two decisions as an affinity group. One, stick to green events. Two, pick a name. Mark suggests something symbolic, like the Emiliano Zapatas or the Rosa Luxemburgs, but we settle on Lasagne -- simple, yet multi-layered, with a nod to Oka's most famous militant.
5:15 pm: The march goes off smoothly but begins morphing into something less predictable when we hit rue Charest and Dorchester. Protestors are heading up the hill toward the wall, where riot cops are lying in wait.
Lasagne members, dying of hunger, stop to eat instead. And proceed to miss all the action at René Lévesque and Claire-Fontaine.
Instead, we become glued to the TV at the cafe. By the time we've finished, the skirmishes are over. "Will we get another chance?" wonders Cheyenne.
3 am: Back at Laval, I'm awakened by a thud. A 300-pound guy with beer breath is spread-eagled at a right angle to my hip. He's passed out, probably nowhere near his own sleeping bag. Ayse looks like she's been steamrolled.
Saturday, 2:15 pm: We're on the official People's Summit march, which is buzzing with euphoria after the packed public forum addressed by Maude Barlow and José Bové. When we reach a street that branches off toward the Summit perimeter, six of us decide we want to leave the march and go up to the fence. Then we catch our first whiff of tear gas wafting down from the hill, and our mood immediately changes from festive to fear.
Not everyone is down with heading that way any more. Half the group lack goggles and bandanas.
"We're not comfortable doing that," say Ayse, Sanaz and Hon, who want to split and follow the green march. We agree to meet up later.
2:40 pm: We're walking up a tiny side street near the wall. The cops are tear-gassing the area like crazy. I have this feeling that I'm in a war movie, as if we're heading up a dangerous flank toward an unseen foe.
Mark, who doesn't have goggles, starts bawling and decides he can't go further. We push on ahead and finally reach René Lévesque. Huge crowds are spread out between the wall and rue St-Jean. We keep ourselves close to an easy exit, but it's no use when the sky suddenly starts raining tear gas canisters. We scatter like flies down the slope.
Blinded, Richard starts to panic, and we lose Ann. Cheyenne gives Richard's eyes a flush while a stranger offers saline solution. It's not enough to save him from extreme nausea later, though.
"I was overcome by this horrible sensation, where I couldn't see or breathe," he says later.
5 pm: In the middle of another gas attack, Cheyenne gets a call from Sanaz, Ayse and Hon, who are quaffing beer at the green festival in Victoria Park. They say hi.
9:30 pm: Reunited, we head to the overpass at Charest, where dozens of young protestors are banging on metal objects in defiance of the cops. Outrage fills the air as tear gas canisters spill into this green zone.
"What the fuck are they doing?" screams Mark. "Look at that!"
Later, a small group of youths start a bonfire, and before long the wooden fence nearby is being ripped up to feed it.
"They're acting like this because they don't feel they're being heard," says Ayse.
Sunday, 11 am: Laval U is emptying fast as protestors return to their cities and towns, while jail solidarity vigils start at D'Orsainville. On the bus back to Toronto, we reflect on the two days, not really sure whether it has all been just one bad dream.
"Something like this happening in Canada? It's surreal," says Richard.
"I try to imagine what it would've been like if I hadn't come and I'd had to rely on media like CBC's The National or the dailies to get information," says Cheyenne. "It was important to see it with my own eyes. I felt I had to be a witness. And what I saw of the police actions was shocking and sick."