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Singapore Sam returns home to Worthington

Surrounded by St. Mary's students, Melissa Saigh, with daughter Linna on her lap, unwraps Singapore Sue, the new mascot for Nancy Johnson's first-grade class. Sue will accompany the Saighs when they return to Singapore in March1 / 2
A student holds Singapore Sam, the stuffed frog that returned to St. Mary's School in Friday, while Melissa Saigh answers questions about her family's time in Southeast Asia.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- After hopping around on the other side of the world for several months, Singapore Sam got quite the welcome home party Friday afternoon from Nancy Johnson's first-grade class at St. Mary's Catholic School in Worthington.

Sam accompanied Johnson's niece, Melissa Saigh, her husband AJ and their young daughter, Linna, to Singapore last August while the Saighs were living there for AJ's job. The first-graders followed Singapore Sam's exploits by Skyping on the computer with Melissa and Linna periodically during their Singapore adventure.

The Saighs took the stuffed frog with them as they toured in Singapore and Thailand and collected artifacts to show the students.

On Friday afternoon, Melissa and Linna escorted Singapore Sam back to Worthington and presented their bag of souvenirs.

"Here are some stickers for the Singapore Flyer, the big Ferris wheel," explained Melissa as she pulled items out of the bag. "And here are some shells from the South China Sea."

The bag also contained a washcloth featuring the popular southeast Asian character Hello Kitty, currency from Singapore and Thailand and a flier from Underwater World in Singapore, which Melissa pointed out was similar to the one at Minnesota's Mall of America.

"Everything you guys are touching is from all the way around the world," said Melissa. "Isn't that cool?"

During the Saighs' classroom visit, the students had the chance to ask some questions in person instead of over the Internet, and Melissa shared one of the more unique experiences of their southeast Asian stay.

"My husband and I got to go swimming with the sharks," she said, eliciting an audible gasp from the students. "We actually went into the water with them. They were wild sharks. They could bite you, but they didn't. I was very scared, but once you're in the water with them, it's fun."

Johnson conceived the idea of sending Singapore Sam with the Saighs as a way to connect her students to the world.

"They're learning about another country, and they're learning about how we're all alike, but different," said Johnson. "I think that's been a big thing."

Each of the first-grade students has his or her own passport, and as they learn about new countries during their studies, the passport gets a new stamp. So far this year, they've gotten stamps for Singapore, Canada and Mexico.

And they will learn even more about Singapore in the months to come, as the Saighs are returning there for a longer, two-year stint. Anticipating that visit, Johnson had a special present prepared. Out of a gift bag popped a new mascot -- Singapore Sue, a plush puppet. The note accompanying Sue read: I am coming with you to Singapore. I can't wait to go. I hope we go to the pool. Love, Singapore Sue.

The Saighs have been back in Minnesota since November and will depart again March 1.

"We will be there for two years, but Linna and I will come back twice a year and stay for a couple months each time," explained Melissa. "We found out (that we would be going back to Singapore) while we were still there. It's a good opportunity for our family, and we loved it there. It's just hard being away from the grandparents for that length of time."

Melissa anticipates that connecting again with the students will help to stave off any homesickness.

"It's a way to be tied back to home," she said. "It can be so easy to forget where your roots come from. Seeing their little faces and hearing their questions -- there are so many things they really want to know -- is really a lot of fun. They have so much energy. And this way they get to experience it, too, through Singapore Sam and now through Singapore Sue."

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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