Cristian Cruz & Amanda Mejia

March 2020

When she was nine years old, Amanda Mejia would call twelve-year-old Cristian Cruz on the phone week after week to chat about movies and shows that she had seen or other things going on in her life.

“I don’t remember doing this, but he’s told me about it,” says Amanda. “I asked him if he thought it was weird, but he just said, ‘No! I didn’t mind at all. You were just little.’”

Their initial meeting took place after Amanda’s mother and Cristian’s mother, who had been friends in their hometown of Cali, Colombia, ran into one another in Toronto despite not knowing that the other lived in the city.

“The night we met, I remember my older sisters thought that Cristian was super cute so they were acting really shy around him. He asked if any of us wanted to play video games, and I was the only one who said yes because I didn’t care about that stuff at the time. We played all night and it was a lot of fun.”

From there, the two developed a solid friendship.

“When I was twelve, my sister celebrated her Sweet Sixteen and Cristian told me he would only go if I would go as his partner. I was completely okay with that!”

The Sweet Sixteen marked the beginning of their courtship, but Amanda was not allowed to date until she turned sixteen.

“A few days after I turned sixteen, there was a Colombian Independence Day Festival in Toronto and I ran into him there. I told him that he had to take me out for my birthday, and that’s how we officially started dating,” says Amanda.

They’ve been together for thirteen years and were married this past October in Toronto.

The two grew up together, and they view their move to Thunder Bay as the culminating act in their coming-of-age story.

“We were going through all those first stages of young adulthood together, and once we started to save for a house, I got this job opportunity to work in the International Department at Lakehead. I’m Spanish-speaking, and I was offered a position doing recruitment in Latin American Countries.”

In order to promote both the university and the city to international students, the couple relocated to Thunder Bay so that they could immerse themselves in the experience of living and working in the city.

“We arrived in June and bought a house a month later, which would have taken a lot longer if we stayed in Toronto. I think that was one of the most unique things about moving here – it created a scenario in which we did so much growing up in a short time span just because of how accessible things are here. I will always be grateful to Thunder Bay for giving us the opportunity to take those next steps in our lives,” Amanda tells me.

Cristian works for New Method Insulation & Supply and has been happy with the difference in work-life balance compared to Toronto.

“What I liked most about the city when we first arrived was having the time to work, but also having so much time for hobbies and outdoor activities,” says Cristian.

Upon moving here and heading to work day-to-day, the couple was struck by how much extra time they had because of their new under-ten-minute commute times.

“We would get home close to 5:00pm, and wondered, what do we do with all of this time? We started going for long treks, swimming, going to yoga, and getting involved in all kinds of activities that helped us to live a fuller life. It opened us up to a lot of new interests,” says Amanda.

“Plus, in Toronto, the commute itself is so long and inconvenient that it just exhausts you and leaves you with almost no energy once you get home,” adds Cristian.

Last August, Amanda opened up a small thrift shop called Tote and Tiempo that she operates out of The Hub Bazaar on Victoria Avenue every Saturday. She initially started the shop with her own clothes because she was inspired by the increasing shift toward minimalist and sustainable lifestyles.

“I began getting overwhelming support from my family and my friends and a lot of people started to send me their clothes. It’s become a collection of things that people want to share with other people.”

The couple bought their house on the south side of town, and Cristian and Amanda really like that the Hub Bazaar strives to bring some positive attention to the south core.

“We love Up Shot, we love Farmhouse Fudge, we love The Pasta Shoppe – there are a lot of really great places to go on this side of town that people kind of forget about,” says Amanda. “We went on a city tour when we first arrived, and we ended up just loving this area of town. When I was looking at where to set up my shop, it was important to me to make a commitment to help promote this area of town and to work with the other great local businesses to bring this area to life.”

The couple has also added a new family member into the mix – a husky rescue they got from Paws for Love.

“The best thing in the world has been being able to do so many different activities with our dog here. We do so many things that we didn’t really have the opportunity or time to do when we were in Toronto. Getting a dog would have been a lot harder. We are very excited for summer because we go rollerblading and biking with our dog. He loves his walks along the Neebing River too,” says Cristian.

Thunder Bay has played a pivotal role in the couple’s journey together, and by moving here and making it their home, they have learned a lot about their hobbies, their passions, and living a full and well-rounded life.

Cassandra Blair has a Masters of Arts in English Literature and is a regular contributor to Bayview.

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