We have new friends in Invercargill. A couple our age, they are originally from Uzbekistan - from near the capital city there, Tashkent.
Like me, they grew up with Russian spoken in their households. In fact, they still talk Russian among themselves and to their children. Their children, though, now prefer conversing in English instead and, apparently, only revert to Russian when they are having a fight. It's easy to tell, their mother says, when a fight starts because as soon as tempers are running high, Russian words start sounding across the house. When everyone's happy, it's English.
They've also, like me, lived in a variety of countries before settling in New Zealand: in Israel (where they met having travelled there independently from Uzbekistan), in USA, then in Christchurch before finally moving to Invercargill down South.
I've spent quite a lot of time talking to the mother this week. To her it's easier to talk in Russian rather than English, so our conversations are a mixture of the two: I attempt my rusty Russian and when stuck, revert to English. She talks in Russian and when I don't understand an expression, explains to me in English what she means. My son and daughter, meanwhile, grin and ask why we are "talking so funny".
It's... hard and wonderful at the same time. I have spoken very little Russian since I moved out after high school, but apparently I can still hold a decent conversation and to them, I don't even sound like a have an accent. (Which I know is false because as soon as I attempted speaking Russian in Estonia in 2010, people were saying that I had an accent. Eight years on, I can only assume that it's grown even stronger.)
And it's hard because in the minutes immediately after speaking Russian, I find myself stuck between trying to understand what language I am "thinking in" and then trying to figure out what language I should talk to the person in front of me. Buckling The Girlie into her car seat, I kind of go "Eh, uhm, oh..." because I can't figure out fast enough how to say "We are going to the library now," and whether I should speak English to her at all.
Neurologically, it's probably a good exercise. But it's so weird to sit in a kitchen in a house in Invercargill, and talk Russian.