By some miracle we arrived at the appointed restaurant for the cocktail hour 10 minutes early, having walked 15 minutes AND made a stop for cash at a bank lobby's ATM. The guys at the restaurant were standing around, doing nothing. I walked up and they looked at me strangely. "Abierto?" I asked. (Are you open?). "No, señor. Come back at 7PM." I looked at my watch and replied in English, "We are supposed to be here at 5." At this the apparent manager disappeared into the back for a minute, then came back and asked if we were coming from the W Hotel. We weren't, but most everyone else was, so I replied in the affirmative. "For you we make an exception!" and then he showed us to a corner of the courtyard with a couple of tables and only 2 chairs. Whatever. Another guy came and introduced himself, and soon the place was teeming with Americans with a few from other places tossed in for flavor. Approximately 100 in all. I was finally able to meet two friends, Americans living in Chile, in person - these guys and I had "met" via internet email exchanges for over a year.
We also met a lot of other people, all of whom were there to attend a conference on investing in South America in general and Chile in particular. I was not able to keep track of very many people, hometowns, and names, but K made a good effort. We also met a really famous guy, Jim Rogers, who was there to speak at the conference. A personal hero of mine, he had circumnavigated the globe on a motorcycle searching for investment opportunities, all documented in his book Investment Biker. Subsequently he did it again in a Mercedes SUV, and you can read about it HERE. This guy has style! Not only that, he was incredibly kind and gracious, meeting and greeting all who were there, including us. I told him I had his first book, and he said it's too bad I didn't bring it for an autograph. (I had considered doing so, but decided against it in the interest of traveling light). I asked him if he rode motorcycles any more, and he told me it had been a while. Since he now lived in Singapore (where his children could learn Chinese and be educated multi-lingually), there is too much regulation and restrictive speed limits to make motorcycling interesting. He concurred that South America was an excellent place for biking, and also confirmed that it would be insane to try to do any investments or business in Argentina, which was really too bad - we love that place. He said, "Every nickel you put into that country you will eventually lose." Great to have clear advice right from the guru.
Ultimately we realized how hungry we were, not having had anything since breakfast, so I found my friend J and we adjourned across the street to a restaurant called Maldito Chef (Evil Chef), which is a really appropriate place for my buddy. He had seen it but not tried it, so we walked in and made ourselves comfortable. The food was decent, if expensive. A steak and fries, two chicken plates, a few beers, two desserts and an espresso was just over US$80 with 10% tip. We had a great time trading war stories and hearing how much better Chile was than Uruguay, where J had just spent nearly 6 years trying to make things work before giving up and moving to Santiago. If you have a few days to spare, you can read some of J's excellent rants on his site http://expatbob.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/hello-world/. All in all an outstanding evening!