Here's a series of pics from Monday morning's building-dedication ceremony—the shamanistic gosa, which involves a severed pig's head on an altar along with fish, fruit, rice cakes, makkeolli sprinkled on the ground, incense, and even burning paper floated into the air (very shamanistic). Our boss had originally intended to take me and my coworker to the new building, but he called us at the office and said he'd been asked to come earlier, so my coworker and I would need to take a cab. We did so, and my boss, when I met him, slipped me a W10,000 bill to make up for the fare.
Below: the first sight to greet us—ranks of staffers on the stairs, calling out greetings in creepy-yet-cheerful unison to passersby.
Next: a shot that gives you a better look at the building. I've been calling my place of work "the Golden Goose," and I'll continue to do so to make my work-related posts a little less Googleable, but in these pictures, you can see my company's name. Now you know.
Inside the first floor: the Death Star isn't complete quite yet, but we're having a building-dedication ceremony all the same.
The back of my boss's head. Because he's fluent in Korean, he was called upon to interpret for us native speakers of English throughout the ceremony.
A note about the above photo: through a trick of the light, there appears to be a gray rectangle that's just sitting all by itself. It's actually part of the picture that shows my boss. It's either a large ceiling light, or it's light glaring off white paint on the ceiling.
And now—the pig's head itself. It represents prosperity and good luck. The gosa isn't the most Muslim-friendly of rituals, but welcome to Asia, where pigs are popular animals. The whole purpose of this ritual is to bring good luck to the building and to the people who use it for its assigned purpose. The CEO told us he hopes to establish more such independent branches, and he further hopes to make our company go international, with branches in foreign countries, the way some of our competitors are functioning now.
Anyway, the pig and the well-laden altar:
In this next pic, I turn the camera slightly left to give you a view of the hagweon's front desk:
Here's the first of two insane ribbon-cutting pictures. You'd think that having a single person make a single cut into a ribbon would be sufficient, but no: as the SEALs say, if something is worth doing, it's worth overdoing. So why not line up a whole platoon of people, all armed with scissors, to cut that ribbon to ribbons?
Second ribbon-cutting pic:
In this next picture, the man kneeling is our CEO. He doesn't go by that title, though: he insists on being called a weonjang, i.e., an institute president. This is a less-lofty title than hoejang-nim, which refers to a CEO, but it's what everyone calls him. The big boss gets his name put on all our textbooks; we who actually write the textbooks never see our names on their covers (although our names can appear inside, in the front matter).
A digital-zoom shot, same scene:
I stepped outside momentarily to take a gander at the festive flower arrangements that normally accompany any sort of business opening.
And another shot:
At this point, I've skipped far forward in time. There are many events that I didn't photograph. There was, for example, a cute dance number done by some female staffers; there was a slide show that told the story of the building's construction (it took more than a year to build); there were speeches... so many speeches, with the CEO speaking last of all and going on interminably. Around five minutes before he finished, I said "Fuck it" and headed up to the 8th floor. I'd wanted to see the roof. The following shot is of an open space on the 8th floor. Not quite the rooftop, but it gave a decent view of part of the city:
Another shot, same location:
I was one of the first to pop upstairs and see the food that had been prepped for the post-ceremony lunch. I didn't eat anything, partly because I hate massive gatherings, which involve the painful act of sitting with people I don't know, and partly because I've dedicated myself to a low-carb regime.
A view from the 8th floor, more explicitly downward-looking:
I climbed up to the rooftop gardens and terrace, where I snapped these final two pictures. The CEO's college-aged daughter was up there, eating a quiet lunch with a lady friend. She said "hi" as I lumbered past her to get my shots; I smiled in return, but didn't want to disturb her and her friend.
And one last shot off the roof:
I ended up grabbing a cab and going back to my office in Daechi-dong by myself. There was little point in hanging around if I wasn't intending to eat lunch there. A free meal might have been nice, but it would also have been 90% carbs. As I was leaving the rooftop, several foreign teachers came up the stairwell, having finally gotten a clue that there was more to see in this building. I heard one guy telling another, "...and you know this roof? They made all this for the kids, too!" I thought that was amusing. The guy apparently couldn't read Korean because the staircase giving access to the rooftop terrace had a sign in it that said, "Students: Do Not Enter." Maybe he was right—maybe the rooftop terrace is for the kids as much as it's for the adult faculty and staff. In that case, those signs will have to come down.
The celebration was still going on around 1PM. I was long gone by then, but half my work day had been used up on this ceremony. I wish the Songpa branch good luck, now that the Songpa-based workers have a building to call their own. This company has its faults, but I'm generally glad to be working here, and I certainly have no reason to wish any of the teachers and staffers ill. May they enjoy the new facilities, and may the facilities last a long, long time.