Chat (pronounced like chat room) is leafy plant that when chewed and ingested produces mixed highs. We had heard everything from it being like a sugar rush to people full out hallucinating. Pretty much everyone does it. In both Jimma and Assendabo every other person is carrying chat under their arm, which comes in a bushel that is put in a plastic shopping, the stems are sticking out of the bag’s top. We don’t know how addictive the plant actually is, but several locals have said most people would rather chew chat than get a job and work. Even professionals chew chat, so it’s not just a lower class thing.

So after seeing all this chat, we had to try it. Before the party in Assendabo, we had our own little chat party. The person who procured the chat hid it in her sweatshirt so that the kids wouldn’t see a ferenji with chat and think that doing chat is ok. She went with a local and after she hid it in her shirt the guy said, “Uh, you have a twig sticking out your shirt.” She’s a health care professional, not a professional smuggler.
Our curiosity finally peaked around sundown and we broke out the chat. Out of the 9 of us, I think 7 at least tried the chat leaves. They were super bitter and flat out disgusting. We were warned of this and people drank coke or ate sugary things to try to counter balance this. It came down to four of us who were determined to chew this chat and see what the big deal was. We had our own little chat party away from the other 5 who weren’t turned on. The four of us would pluck off all the leaves from a twig and make them into a wad and chew on them, as this is what we thought the locals did. These wads were so bitter, no amount of coke took away that taste. Thankfully we eventually finished off the bushel.

Our efforts did pay off. I was pretty wired, and I could tell my eyes were wide open; another student had a body high like the first stages of mushrooms, and the other two girls were pretty wired and giggly. Some of the other students were a little jealous that we actually felt something. It is hard to say how long the effects lasted as we then started the party, dancing, drinking, etc, but I can say that the amount of effort was not worth the effects for me. I would rather shotgun a Red Bull.

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