Toronto

COVID-19 isn't over. But here's how some of our readers hope to return to normal in 2021

Five readers share with CBC Toronto what they hope to do after COVID-19 restrictions lift.

5 stories of people looking forward to a post-pandemic world

Physiotherapist Brian Culliton has been working throughout the pandemic. He is hoping to expand his social life as Ontario slowly reopens. (Brian Culliton)

If 2020 was a tale of restrictions and caution, the summer of 2021 is a tale of hope and optimism.

With rising vaccination numbers and loosening restrictions, some Torontonians are emerging from the pandemic with a list of "to-dos." 

In May, when Canada shifted to a strategy of accelerating first vaccine doses, CBC Toronto asked readers what they planned to do once Canada started to reopen. With all Canadians 18 and older now eligible for a second dose, we contacted some of the readers who wrote to us to find out what was on their "to-do" list.

A Canadian bucket list

Jamil El-Soure had almost no opportunities to dine in restaurants because of COVID-19. This is his only photo at a restaurant in Canada. (Jamil El-Soure)

When Jamil El-Soure was accepted by York University as an international engineering student, there were many things on his Canadian bucket list.

"I wanted to travel to Vancouver, do some skydiving over there and I wanted to go to Quebec to see nature," he said.

But El-Soure landed in Toronto from Jordan in January this year in the middle of the second wave. That meant many activities were shut down or restricted. 

Still, he was able to cross two Canadian experiences — ice skating and tobogganing — off his list. He also explored some of downtown Toronto. "I got to see the CN Tower from the outside," he said.

"I liked Toronto, it's a very fun place to be." 

El-Soure's back home in Jordan for the summer. By the time he returns for the fall semester, he hopes Canada will be opened up so he can cross off more activities..

"The first thing I'm planning to do is to finally go inside the CN Tower," he said.

Refilling a social calendar

Culliton, far left, with his physiotherapy team one week before the shutdown in March 2020. While his clinic has been busy during the pandemic, he's looking forward to his social life returning soon. (Brian Culliton)

With many people working from home and not getting much exercise, physiotherapist Brian Culliton has been busier than ever during the pandemic. 

"Nothing has changed much because we were deemed essential, so we have just been working full time," he said. "It was a little bit unnerving at the time, but you get used to it." 

After an entire year of hard work, Ontario's reopening has him excited to return to large social events, like a family wedding in September.

"You really start realizing what you actually miss and what's important to you. A lot of those people I haven't seen since Christmas 2019."

Culliton is also looking forward to filling his social calendar with smaller events he used to enjoy before the pandemic.

"Things like going out to see your friend's cottage, my baseball season is starting, things like that," he said. "It's just getting back to doing the normal things we've really taken for granted."

A return to art and culture

Sarah Kravetz and her husband's first breakfast in Toronto on a patio this year. (Sarah Kravetz)

Back in May, art collector Sarah Kravetz told CBC Toronto what she was looking forward to the most: "CULTURE" she wrote in all caps. "Live music, theatre shows, dance performances, public art."

Despite many museums, concerts and shows moving online, she said nothing compares to experiencing those events in person.

"Art and culture are part of my life and well-being," she said. "I really believe that it's good for anyone's well-being."

Kravetz's husband, a musician, has also recently started playing at outdoor patio venues. That gives her hope that cultural events are on the cusp of a comeback.

"I've been holding onto hope for the whole time," she said. "That's what keeps you up."

She's looking forward to attending one of her husband's shows.

"I'm going to go there and have a glass of wine and enjoy the music," she said. "It's really lovely."

Back on screen

A frame grab from a promo video for Duran's film 'It Matters What,' which will play at the Vector Festival in Toronto in August. (Francisca Duran)

As an experimental filmmaker and film instructor, much of Francisca Duran's work depends on factors like the room, acoustic space, and people physically watching her films together.

Now that Ontario has loosened restrictions, Duran is excited to attend in-person screenings again. Her films will be featured in two upcoming festivals this year — one in Toronto, another in Winnipeg.

"The feeling is indescribable, but I don't want to get too excited because I don't want to be disappointed," she said. "I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll get to go."

But the pandemic did allow her to participate in several online film screenings she wouldn't usually have been able to attend, she said.

"It's expensive to fly and most festivals can't afford to bring artists internationally," she said.

"I've got to meet people that I would never have met before. But it's not the same watching your work on the computer."

A family reunion

Marianne Crawford's family at their cottage in Honey Harbour, Ont., before the pandemic. Crawford is in the middle, hugging her stepfather. (Marianne Crawford)

Marianne Crawford is looking forward mostly to going to family gatherings and taking day trips when the pandemic is finally over.

"We have always loved going on day trips," said the mother of three adult children."It's always been a common bond and a way to get all the kids and myself together."

Because she is immuno-compromised, Crawford's children have had to physically distance and avoid close contact with her for more than a year. This made her family's first hugs with fully vaccinated members extra special.

"It just felt amazing to walk out the door with arms open wide, ready to embrace," she said.

She's hoping her entire family can have a proper family trip by September. A top priority is visiting Crawford's elderly stepfather, whom they have not seen since 2019.

"He partly raised me and he has been there outside the doors for the birth of all three of my children," she said.

"He's the priority that we as a family need to go to see." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Lo is an intern with CBC Toronto. He is a graduate of the Master of Media in Journalism and Communication program at Western University, and covers stories for the Toronto Enterprise Unit. When not at work, you can find him on a softball diamond in Markham. You can reach him at jason.lo@cbc.ca

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