CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marg Wrack wandered around the shady grounds of the Capitol a week ago.
The native of New Zealand has grown accustomed to massive waterfalls, spectacular scenery and exotic wildlife.
But New Zealand lacks one furry creature that scampered around the Capitol grounds -- the common American squirrel. According to Wrack, there are no squirrels, deer or snakes in New Zealand.
It is those small differences between New Zealand and America that fascinate Wrack.
She has spent the last few weeks touring the Mountain State on a visit organized by Friendship Force -- a nonprofit organization that aims to promote international friendship through homestay exchanges.
Her group included retired auto mechanics, farmers, government employees, land surveyors and bankers from Whangarei, New Zealand.
Since they came to West Virginia, the tourists have visited a Putnam County winery, explored the Charleston Farmer's Market and traveled to the New River Gorge. They also joined the throngs of visitors who flocked to the Capitol grounds for the Sesquicentennial celebration two weeks ago.
On June 28, the tourists sat on folding chairs at the state Culture Center to discuss thoughts on West Virginia, New Zealand and international friendship.
Peter Geange, a retired banker, said that New Zealand often appears small when compared to the congested streets and towering skyscrapers of America.
Brian Currie, a former land surveyor, agreed.
"Everything is big in America," he said.
He pointed to the massive system of American waterways and lochs and exclaimed over a mammoth coal barge that he had seen drifting down the Kanawha River several days before.
Even the water flushing clockwise through toilets interested the tourists. They are accustomed to water swirling counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
According to Sandra Willis, West Virginian history fascinated the travelers as well.
Geange noted that American history is much older than the history of New Zealand. British settlers first colonized New Zealand in 1840.
But the visitors also identified several parallels between America and New Zealand.