Salaams! I title this A Brief Guide to Surviving ISNA, from mine own experience.
- Write down/print EVERYTHING.
Directions, maps, layouts, programs, numbers, schedules, registration confirmation, whatever you need. Remember to print directions COMING BACK, as well. A good map of DC is crucial, especially if you want to get some sight-seeing in.
Ladies, I’m telling you right now, you aren’t going to wear half the stuff you think you need. I know it’s scary, but please believe me when I tell you you won’t run out of clothes. Instead of tossing in everything that looks good on you, or that you MIGHT need, or “just-in-case,” use FabSugar’s Outfit Planner to plan exactly what you’ll wear each day and night. You’d be surprised at how little you really need. Try to keep to a color scheme or plan that let’s you mix and match items more than once so you don’t have to pack as much. Also, you’re gonna want to save room for stuff you buy from the bazaar.
- Familiarize yourself with the ISNA program.
Contemplate in advance the programs you are interested in attending, and write out your own tentative schedule. Sessions can change at the last minute, or a parallel session might decide they’re no match for Zaid Shakir and delay the start of their session. Keep your ears and eyes open for any changes to the programs, and know that 99% of the time the schedule you printed from the website is not the same schedule you will receive at the convention itself.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
Your tired dogs’ll thank you at the end of the day. You’re going to be walking a lot, especially if you’re taking the Metro, and heels just aren’t going to cut it.
- Pack a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Keep a compact toothbrush and toothpaste or mouthwash with you so you can stay fresh throughout the day. Conventions can be stressful, and you’ll feel better knowing that the chicken biryani you had for lunch was just that: lunch, and not your companion for the rest of the day.
- If you wear contacts, bring your contact case and glasses with you.
Instead of dealing with painful burning eyes that will not respond to eyedrops, bring your glasses so you can take out your contacts if they start to bother you.
- Soak some q-tips in eye makeup remover.
After making slightly-more-vigorous-than necessary wudhu before zuhr, you look up to realize your hasmi kajal no longer has the will to continue lining your eyes and is now smudging precariously. You’re prepared, because you have a little ziploc bag of q-tips or cotton balls pre-soaked in makeup remover. No need to worry about a bottle of liquid with a not-quite-closed-lid upending itself in your purse (been there, sponged that).
- Take down numbers.
Write down/memorize the numbers of everyone you are staying with, as well as police, hospital, security, etc. in case of emergency.
- Have a pen/pad of paper handy.
If you like taking notes, keep a small notebook and writing utensil with you. It’s also helpful if you want to exchange email/phone numbers with people you meet.
- Make sure all electronics are charged and ready to go.
Make sure your phone, camera, laptop, etc are all fully charged before you attempt to use them. Charge them before your trip so you don’t have to search around wildly for an outlet or find out if anyone has a charger. (Don’t forget your chargers!)
In the northwest quadrant, where the convention is taking place at, numbered streets run north and south and count upwards from east to west. Lettered streets run east and west and “count” upwards from south to north. Looking at a map helps. Basically, the further west you go, the bigger the numbers get. Go east, they get smaller. If the single letter streets are getting further along in the alphabet, you know you’re heading north. If they’re getting closer to the beginning of the alphabet, you’re heading south. (There is no A street in NW, btw.) Read the wiki. You’ll be glad you did.
- Keep all the prayer times for each day of the convention at hand.
Find out the prayer timings for DC, print ’em out, and keep them with you. Keep a small towel or prayer rug with you in case you find yourself away from the convention center during prayer time.
- Keep a chota-lota with you.
A chota-lota is literally a “little” lota (water container). I know there are no shortage of gatorade bottles, water cups, etc within the convention center itself, but if you find yourself in the city a small spray or squeeze bottle is handy for those icky public bathrooms.
- Memorize the address and layout of the convention center, as well as any place you’re going.
Quick! Someone is having a heart attack in front of you and another person thrusts a phone into your hand! “Tell the paramedics where we are!” they say. “I don’t know where we are!” you say, alarmed. “Neither do I!” they respond.
Don’t be these idiots. Know exactly where you are, at all times.
- Stay alert. Know where all your valuables are.
Don’t trust anyone with anything. Don’t leave your bag anywhere, don’t ask anyone to hold anything for you, TRUST NO ONE.
- Stay hydrated.
Drink a lot of water so you don’t pass out from dehydration. DC is going to be hot like burning in July so keep water with you at all times.
- Bring nutritious snacks.
Bring a little something something to snack on, just in case. Almonds, dates, granola bars, sunflower seeds, fruit that travels well, something to keep you going.
- HIJAB PINS.
These tricky little things always seem to disappear by the end of any trip. Keep track of your hijab pins!
- Register early.
Considering that tomorrow (June 29th) is the registration deadline, this is somewhat late advice. (The deadline was supposed to be today, they extended it. Again.) If you haven’t registered yet, TOMORROW IS YOUR LAST DAY TO REGISTER ONLINE! If you’re a student, you’ll need to fax a copy of your student ID to (317) 839-1822.
Or you can just wait until you get there and stand in really, really long lines. Your choice!
- Don’t talk to creepy people.